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Walker eased lead rules after soliciting money from lead paint producer

A leading lead manufacturer was among a host of corporate leaders who donated to a conservative group that helped Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators fend off recall challenges.

The Guardian, a British newspaper, obtained 1,500 pages of leaked documents from a secret investigation into whether Walker’s recall campaign illegally coordinated with outside conservative groups. That investigation was halted in 2015 by the Wisconsin Supreme Court under a ruling by right-wing justices who received millions of dollars in donations from the same outside groups that were charged in the case.

The documents show Walker was interested in getting Harold Simmons, the billionaire owner of NL Industries, which was a major producer of lead that was used in paint before such practices were banned, to donate to the conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth. That group, backed by the Koch brothers, worked in coordination with Walker’s campaign to fight a 2012 attempt to recall the governor. Simmons gave the group $750,000 in 2011 and 2012, at the height of recall efforts.

After Simmons’ donations, the Wisconsin Legislature’s finance committee tucked language into the 2013–15 state budget granting immunity to lead manufacturers from lead paint poisoning lawsuits. Staff members for three Republicans on that committee who were recalled in 2011 didn’t immediately respond to email messages inquiring about whether the immunity was in return for the Club for Growth donations.

Walker and the state’s majority Republican legislators also used the state budget to loosen the regulation of lead paint. In addition to the producers of lead paint, the real estate and construction industries strongly oppose any regulation on lead, despite its potential deadliness. Like NL Industries, construction and real-estate companies are major donors to Walker and Wisconsin Republicans.

On July 23, 2015, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign issued a press statement shedding light on the great length that Walker and the GOP went to protect manufacturers of lead paint. A last-minute budget amendment by GOP legislators changed the legal definition of lead paint “to increase the amount of lead that must be in liquid or dry paint before state regulations kick in,” according to WDC.

The amendment also prevented state administrative rules from being updated to reflect any future statutory definition of lead paint that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention might enact to protect public health.

Lead paint is toxic. It can cause a range of health problems, especially in young children, when it’s absorbed into the body. It causes damage to the brain, kidneys, nerves and blood. Lead may also cause behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures and even death.

Corrosion of lead pipes damages water supplies. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett recently urged everyone living in a home built before 1951 — about 700,000 city residences — to get a filter capable of removing the toxin from water.

The documents leaked by The Guardian also showed that Walker and his fundraisers solicited money for the Wisconsin Club for Growth from hedge-fund billionaire Stephen Cohen, who gave the club $1 million; Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone, who gave $25,000; and hedge-fund manager and Manhattan Institute for Policy Research Chairman Paul Singer, who gave $250,000.

Such donations are legal under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which said restrictions on corporations’ political spending were unconstitutional.

Prosecutors had alleged Walker and his fundraising team asked potential contributors to donate to Wisconsin Club for Growth and other groups so they could run ads supporting him in the recalls. But the right-wing majority on the state’s high court said Walker had done nothing illegal, because coordination between candidates and outside groups on so-called issue advertising — ads that don’t expressly call for a candidate’s election or defeat — is permissible.

The justices, however, did not say that campaigns and outside groups could coordinate fundraising activities. Prosecutors have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to let them re-start the investigation, and justices will consider that request on Sept. 26.

Walker campaign spokesman Joe Fadness issued a statement Wednesday calling the investigation “baseless.”

Club For Growth attorney David Rivkin said in an email that prosecutors made up crimes that don’t exist and called their appeal “legally frivolous and just another publicity stunt intended to tarnish their targets’ reputations and salvage their own.”

Previously released documents show iron mining company Gogebic Taconite gave the club $700,000. Walker later signed a bill easing regulations to help clear the path for the company’s mine near Lake Superior. The company ultimately gave up plans for the mine, however.

Minority Democrats said during a news conference that the documents raise more questions about what other legislation Republicans may have passed in exchange for donations to outside groups.

‘It appears we have more payback than policy,” Rep. Dana Wachs of Eau Claire said.

Spokeswomen for Republican Senate and Assembly leaders didn’t immediately respond to email messages.

 

WEDC approved tax credits for Walker donor who cut jobs

The Department of Revenue has revoked $50,000 worth of tax credits from W.W. Grainger, a distributor of industrial and maintenance supplies, after the company failed to create promised jobs, sold subsidiaries employing hundreds of its workers and sent some jobs overseas.

The money was part of $500,000 in tax credits approved for W.W. Grainger in 2011 by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., Gov. Scott Walker’s signature job creation agency.

Walker chaired WEDC until 2015. A former top official at Grainger, David W. Grainger, has been a major donor to Walker’s gubernatorial campaigns.

Illinois-based W.W. Grainger had promised to make at least $1.8 million in capital improvements to its Janesville location and create 130 new jobs at that facility by March 2013. The contract also required the company to retain both the new jobs in Janesville and the 1,169 existing full-time jobs across Wisconsin until March 2015.

Because W.W. Grainger spent well over the planned amount on capital improvements, it received $50,000 in tax credits. But WEDC later changed its mind.

“While Grainger has far exceeded their capital investment expectations, they did not create any of the expected 130 jobs, and have had a significant reduction in their workforce,” WEDC program manager Shelly Braun stated on an award closeout assessment signed Oct. 14. “I recommend the revocation of the $50,000 in tax credits verified for capital investment.”

WEDC notified W.W. Grainger’s tax manager of its intent to revoke the credits and, a month later, turned the matter over to the Department of Revenue.

W.W. Grainger spokesman Joe Micucci said the company is paying the $50,000 back. WKOW-TV in Madison disclosed in a report Thursday that the company’s tax credits had been revoked.

Micucci said employment temporarily declined due to the sale of subsidiaries in 2013 but has since rebounded. According to Micucci, the company now has about 1,250 Wisconsin employees, but he declined to say whether that includes part-time employees. When the company applied for the credits in 2011, it reported having 1,169 full-time and 93 part-time employees.

Thomas Cafcas, a research analyst for Good Jobs First, said taxes represent just 2 percent of a company’s costs. More important factors include a ready workforce, good education and transportation systems, and the availability of suppliers and customers, said Cafcas, whose organization promotes accountability in economic development.

“If you look at WEDC, there is so much emphasis over the past few years on how tax breaks create all sorts of jobs,” Cafcas said. “Frankly, (Grainger) is the case in point — along with a whole host of other deals that have gone awry — that this is simply not the case.”

He added that when it comes to business decisions, “subsidies have little to do with it. A company will take taxpayer money if available, but it’s not really driving them to be where they are.”

David W. Grainger, the company’s former senior chairman, is a top Walker donor. He stepped down as chairman in 2007, and he was the largest individual shareholder as recently as 2013. Micucci said Grainger no longer holds that distinction and is not involved in day-to-day operations of the company.

Grainger has given $21,000 to Walker since 2011, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign database. In the 2014 election cycle, Grainger was one of 11 contributors who exceeded the limit of $10,000 in donations for the governor’s re-election. Walker’s campaign was ordered to pay a penalty for accepting excessive contributions.

The foundation managed and funded by Grainger also has been a generous donor to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The business school building was named Grainger after he and the Grainger Foundation together gave $10 million for its construction. And last year, the foundation made a $47 million gift to the UW-Madison engineering program from which David W. Grainger graduated.

Job tax credits given by Walker under scrutiny

WEDC has faced criticism for years and, in some cases, acknowledged its lack of proper oversight in awarding and monitoring financial awards. Critics also have called on the agency to stop subsidizing companies that send jobs outside of Wisconsin. Recently, WEDC chief executive Mark Hogan announced the agency is reviewing its job-related tax credit program after officials identified inaccuracies in how the agency counted qualifying jobs.

W.W. Grainger first applied for the tax credits in 2010, before WEDC was formed, with the Department of Commerce under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle.

Walker, a Republican, formed WEDC after becoming governor in January 2011. The public-private agency then chaired by Walker authorized up to $500,000 in credits in July 2011, including $450,000 for job creation and $50,000 for capital investments.

Grainger’s application detailed plans to convert unused warehouse space in its Janesville property into office space and add 130 full-time jobs, the majority of which would pay around $14 an hour plus benefits. The remaining positions would be managerial positions with hourly wages ranging from $26 to $51.

The application noted two alternative locations to move the jobs, both outside of Wisconsin: Grainger’s corporate offices in Niles, Illinois, or the company’s headquarters in Lake Forest, Illinois.

The final progress report, obtained by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism under the state public records law, shows the company completed the capital investments, spending $6.6 million on its Janesville facility — well over the $1.8 million promised. Improvements included new office space, additional parking, a second cafeteria and other updates.

But W.W. Grainger failed to create 130 new jobs and in fact eliminated two to three times that many positions between receiving the credits and filing the final progress report in 2015.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin, a nonprofit that focuses on social and economic justice, criticized the deal Friday.

“Wisconsin voters are on to the fact that political and corporate establishment are committing economic treason against Wisconsin workers,” said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action. “The public is also increasingly realizing that if the economy can be rigged against workers, it can also be re-rigged in our favor through policies that expand economic opportunity.”

Job numbers decline, rebound

Micucci said the company’s 2013 sale of Gempler’s, Ben Meadows and AW Direct to Ariens Co. — an equipment manufacturing company based in Brillion — caused its headcount to decline.

Last year, W.W. Grainger cut 30 jobs from the Janesville warehouse as part of a strategy to outsource 130 jobs companywide to Panama. According to Micucci, all but six of the 30 employees were placed in other positions with Grainger.

In January, the company announced it would close its Green Bay warehouse and lay off around 43 employees. Employees were told they could apply to jobs at the Janesville warehouse; seven have transferred to date, Micucci said.

He added that the company has no plans for additional job reductions in Wisconsin. In fact, more than 220 people have been hired in the Janesville facility since January. However, since 2011, the number of employees in Janesville has increased by 50 people, to around 900 — still 80 jobs shy of its target.

W.W. Grainger is publicly traded and has paid shareholders increasing dividends for the past several years.

In a recent earnings statement, Chairman and CEO Jim Ryan told shareholders that the company responded to challenging market conditions in 2015 by “restructuring several of our businesses, resulting in a leaner cost structure.” Grainger closed 49 U.S. branches last year and, according to Ryan, “will continue to execute changes” in 2016.

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (www.WisconsinWatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

 

Scalia’s death increases odds for John Doe appeal

The death of Justice Antonin Scalia increases the chances the decision in John Doe 2 may reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Wisconsin high court’s decision halted the investigation into allegations that Scott Walker illegally coordinated with outside groups during the recall elections of 2011 and 2012. The court held that the First Amendment forbids the state from banning coordination between candidates and issue advocacy groups, even though the U.S. Supreme Court never has reach any such ruling.

There are legal limits on donations to candidates, but contributions to groups that indirectly support specific candidates without naming them can raise unlimited sums of money from anonymous donors. That means in Wisconsin candidates have limitless dollars at their personal disposal — dollars that cannot be traced.

Campaign limits to candidates are intended to rein in the corrupting effect of money in politics. Allowing coordination between outside groups, more commonly known as “dark money” groups, and candidates defeats the purpose of limits on campaigns.

If the district attorneys fighting back against this John Doe decision were concerned that appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court might backfire, because a majority might uphold the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision, they can put that fear to rest.

Scalia represented a problem for the district attorneys and for the liberal justices on the Court. The court now has a 4–4 split between conservative and liberal justices. The four liberal justices have consistently voted in favor of campaign finance regulations and they now essentially hold veto power.

In his concurring opinion in the Citizens United case of 2010, Scalia made a First Amendment argument that echoes that of the John Doe opponents. He wrote: “The individual person’s right to speak includes the right to speak in association with other individual persons. …The Amendment is written in terms of ‘speech,’ not speakers. Its text offers no foothold for excluding any category of speaker, from single individuals to partnerships of individuals, to unincorporated associations of individuals, to incorporated associations of individuals.”

But Scalia’s argument here is only about corporations and associations having free speech rights. It’s not about candidates being allowed to coordinate with issue advocacy groups.

Indeed, Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the majority opinion in Citizens United, which Scalia signed on to, made this distinction: “By definition, an independent expenditure is political speech presented to the electorate that is not coordinated with a candidate.”

It is precisely that definition the Wisconsin Supreme Court erased in its John Doe decision.

Matt Rothschild is the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.


Bipartisan support exists for overturning Citizens United. The time for bold action is now.

Much too much is made of red voters and blue voters and red states and blue states, as if they make up two separate Americas (they do not) and their differences are forever irreconcilable (they are not). But for the moment anyway, there is no denying that partisan divisions have intensified in recent years and that America is more politically polarized than at any time in the last two decades.

Against this backdrop, it can be a challenge to find values and attitudes that unite Americans of every political persuasion. But people of every imaginable stripe stand on common ground when it comes to the broadly shared exasperation with money’s dominion over democracy. Four out of five Republicans agree with four out of five Democrats and a supermajority of independents that the U.S. Supreme Court messed up bad when it ruled in 2010 that unlimited political spending is a constitutional right. Five years after the decision, it is as unpopular than ever. In fact, rather than slowly fading from memory the court’s decision in the Citizens United case is becoming the symbol of how the economy and the government have been rigged in favor of a privileged few at the expense of everyone else.

It’s helpful to remember that Supreme Court rulings come and Supreme Court rulings go. Our nation’s highest court once ruled that people could be property. It took not only a presidential proclamation but a bloody civil war and amendments to the Constitution to relegate that shameful decision to its rightful place in the trash bin of history. Today’s Supreme Court blesses oligarchy with the similarly warped logic that property can be entitled to the constitutional rights of a person. In time Citizens United will be tossed in the dumpster too.

Undoing the harm this ruling has done already and continues to do should not need to involve warfare but could very well require a constitutional amendment if the Supreme Court in the fairly near future does not come to its senses and overturn Citizens United before a 28th amendment is ratified. How this all plays out and how promptly this inevitable outcome is brought about largely depends on legal creativity bordering on hubris.

It’s been written that Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation declaring 3 million slaves free was “based on a highly contentious, thin-ice reading of the presidential war powers.” Ample evidence suggests Lincoln knowingly and dramatically exceeded his legal and constitutional authority, and the nation is so very fortunate that he did.

American democracy needs a modern-day equivalent of the Emancipation Proclamation. Whether in the form of an executive order, or an act of Congress, or measures enacted by states or local communities, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United must be defied. The constitutional right of unlimited political spending invented by the court in its Citizens United decision must be exposed for what it truly is – the legalization of bribery.

Elected representatives of the people anywhere and everywhere should knowingly and dramatically exceed what the Supreme Court says is the limit of their legal authority and declare our government free from its current state of indentured servitude to billionaires and corporations. Whenever justices dictate injustice, legal ingenuity is required. Executive orders should be issued and laws should be passed declaring that giving more than $200 to anyone holding or pursuing public office or any group helping to elect a politician is a bribe and therefore a felony.

In throwing down this gauntlet, the Supreme Court’s warped logic in Citizens United is countered with this alternative reasoning: If you wish to demonstrate your support for politicians, their parties or surrogates, giving $200 is demonstration enough. Giving $200 or less does not distinguish you much from your many fellow citizens who are likewise giving small amounts or the much larger number who give nothing at all. But go past the $200 threshold and that puts you in the top one-quarter of 1% of the population. That makes you stand out, separates you from the crowd, and makes it start looking like you might want more than just the honor of participating in a democracy.

Lincoln-style hubris is needed because we are beyond the point where campaign financing can be reformed. It can’t be reformed because we no longer have campaign finance in America. We have legal bribery and there’s no reforming bribery. It has to be outlawed.

All laws and respect for the rule of law in general are demeaned and ultimately undermined when any law ceases to be rooted in reality. The reality is that Americans – Republicans, Democrats and independents alike – see big political donations for what they are, namely bribes. The law of this land needs to reflect that reality. Instead, the Supreme Court has imposed a fictitious alternate reality on us, ordering us to think of property as part of “we, the people” and see massive sums of money spent on elections as “free speech.” Just as a past court ordered all Americans, including President Lincoln, to accept that people could be regarded as property.

Lincoln defied that court. He was said to be on thin ice legally when he did. The ground held beneath his feet.

In defense of democracy in our time, we need to be willing to stand on what we’re told is thin ice. Two hundred dollars is plenty. Anything more is a bribe.

Mike McCabe is founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and former executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. He’s also the author of Blue Jeans in High Places: The Coming Makeover of American Politics.

To learn more about Blue Jean Nation, click here.


Another Milwaukee voucher school closes, raising more questions

Just nine days into the school year, a Milwaukee voucher school abruptly shut down, drawing renewed criticism from opponents of efforts to privatize Wisconsin’s K–12 public school system.

Daughters of the Father Christian Academy, 1877 N. 24th Place, says it closed voluntarily, but the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction had cited it for multiple problems and tried to remove it from the state’s Parental Choice Program over the summer. The school maintains a website that still features an enrollment tab.

Elsewhere on the Web, the academy’s enrollment is listed as 240 students. Now those students’ parents are scrambling for a place to enroll their kids.

The DPI did not return phone messages seeking information about the closure.

By most measures, the school appeared doomed from the start. It managed to achieve accreditation, beginning in the 2007–08 school year, despite a number of red flags that Fox 6 news uncovered during an investigation in May. Those included the revelation that school founder Bishop Doris Pinkney had filed for bankruptcy three times since 1995 and did not have a teaching credential. The school’s application was riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. 

Fox 6 launched the probe after parents of students at the academy complained the school abruptly ceased providing bus service to students in middle of the last academic year due to financial mismanagement. Pinkney acknowledged to a bankruptcy court that she was earning $132,000 annually.

In 2011, a child care center that Pinkney ran was shuttered for “substantial and repeat violations of licensing rules,” according to the Wisconsin Department of Families and Children.

A study published in January by the Wisconsin State Journal concluded that voucher school closings are common in the state. Eleven schools participating in the voucher program were removed within a year of opening due to poor educational standards — at a $4.1 million cost to taxpayers.

The WSJ article appeared just after Milwaukee’s Travis Technology High School was terminated for failing to meet state requirements during the winter break of the 2014–15 school year.

The shutdown of Daughters of the Father Christian Academy brought the number of terminated voucher schools in the state to 57 since 2003, according to a just-released report by the DPI. Those schools have cost Wisconsin taxpayers $176 million.

News of the academy’s closing came one week after Republican legislators appeared poised to fast-track an expansion of Gov. Scott Walker’s private school voucher program. In the 2015–17 biennial budget, Republicans lifted a cap on the number of voucher schools permitted to operate in the state by 1 percent annually. But on Sept. 4, Republicans introduced a proposal — Senate Bill 250 — that would exempt certain school districts from abiding by that limitation, allowing voucher schools to expand more rapidly.

Special interests

“Rather than selling out Wisconsin students to protect the special interests behind Gov. Walker’s presidential campaign, we need action now to prevent further cases of voucher fraud,” Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said in a news release issued prior to Walker’s suspension of his campaign.

By special interests, Shilling was referring to the Koch-backed American Legislative Exchange Council and other right-wing groups that put the creation of private, for-profit schools at the top of their political agenda. In recent years, wealthy and mostly out-of-state pro-voucher groups and organizations have spent more than $7.5 million on campaign contributions for Walker and Wisconsin Republicans, as well as on pro-voucher advertising and lobbying efforts in the state, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. As the law currently stands, even without taking the potential fiscal impact of SB 250 into consideration, the state’s GOP-controlled legislature is on track to spend $1.2 billion on private schools between 2011 and 2017.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign characterized that expenditure as a 15,600 percent return on the $7.5 million “investment” of voucher school supporters.

Since Republicans took over state government, voucher school funding has risen about 77 percent, while funding for K–12 public schools has increased 11 percent, according to a memo that the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau prepared at Schilling’s request.

There were 29,609 students in the voucher program during the last academic school year, according to the DPI. That’s an increase of 26 percent from the the 2011–12 academic year.

Voucher payments are $7,210 for students in K–8 grades and $7,856 for high school students. Those payments represent about $200 million in school voucher funding that would otherwise have gone into the public school system.

“With declining family wages, a shrinking middle class and statewide teacher shortages, we need to stop taking money away from Wisconsin’s children and start investing in quality public schools,” Shilling said.

Jim Bender, president of the pro-voucher group School Choice Wisconsin, countered that total spending on voucher schools is less than 5 percent of all money spent on schools in the state. He accused voucher school opponents of not coming forward with new ideas or reforms to improve K–12 education, but rather complaining about funding.

Accountability

In January, state Sen. Nikiya Harris Dodd, D-Milwaukee, introduced Senate Bill 3, which would set operating and academic standards for voucher schools. Those schools currently operate without the accountability required of public schools.

SB 3 would mandate voucher schools hire licensed teachers, conduct staff background checks, meet state graduation standards and be located in Wisconsin. But the Legislature’s Republican majority has kept the bill bottled up in committees and GOP leadership is unlikely to release it for a vote.

“The recent news reports show a need for taxpayer-funded voucher schools to be held to the same standards as public schools,” Harris Dodd said in a news release. “I introduced Senate Bill 3 because I believe that all children should receive a quality and reliable education. By holding voucher schools accountable, this bill would ensure that students are being taught by qualified, licensed teachers and that precious taxpayer dollars are not being wasted on schools who shut their doors mid-way through the year.

“As a state, we need to improve public oversight, transparency, and student safety in these schools, who are receiving millions of dollars in taxpayer money.”

As he traveled the country campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination, Walker touted Wisconsin’s leadership in providing school choice through the voucher program. But the subject did not resonate with the majority of voters. In fact, most polls show voters prefer public schools over voucher schools.

Inherently flawed

Critics contend that voucher schools are inherently flawed. For one thing, 85 percent of Milwaukee’s voucher schools over the past 30 years have been religious schools, which critics say violates the Constitution’s guaranteed separation of church and state. 

Another thing that riles voucher opponents is some schools eligible for vouchers are expensive private institutions whose students’ parents can afford to pay — and in the past were paying — tuition out of their own pockets. Critics charge that those schools are diverting money from underfunded public schools.

“In Wisconsin, approximately 79 percent of the students who received a taxpayer-subsidized voucher in 2013 were already attending private schools,” U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, wrote in an op-ed for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “This means taxpayer dollars are not being used to advance public education, but instead are being used to subsidize the education of a small number of students already enrolled in private schools at the expense of students in public schools in an attempt to further privatize education.”

An additional problem with voucher schools is many have failed to meet the needs of students with disabilities. In 2013, the federal government wrote the DPI that it must do more to enforce requirements under the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act.

The letter from the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division contained a warning: “The United States reserves its right to pursue enforcement through other means.”

Voucher supporters claim that private schools provide a superior academic environment for students, particularly students from failing public schools. But data comparing the graduation rates and academic proficiencies of students attending public schools with those in voucher schools are inconsistent at best. It appears that while some voucher schools have outperformed public schools, many others have produced poor results and even turned out to be unreliable scam operations.

While the jury is apparently still out on the effectiveness of voucher schools, they continue to drain public education dollars at a time when the state suffers from a teacher shortage due to Walker’s Act 10. Considered the governor’s signature legislation, Act 10 took away teachers’ rights to bargain for wages, benefits and working conditions. In response, thousands of teachers either retired or left the state.

Protests staged by teachers and other public employees over Act 10 resulted in the demonization of the profession by tea party Republicans. That has discouraged college students in Wisconsin from choosing to major in education, which could haunt the state for years to come.

Scott Walker has raised over $5M this year, 90 percent of it from out of state, for his state political committee

An investigation by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign found that $9 out of every $10 in individual contributions that Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s state campaign committee raised during the first half of 2015 came from outside the state, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review found.

A campaign finance report filed Monday by the governor’s state campaign committee, Friends of Scott Walker, showed the committee raised a total of nearly $5.6 million from individuals between January and June 2015. Nearly $4.8 million, or 87 percent, of his individual contributions came from outside Wisconsin. About $74,000 in individual contributions were anonymous, unitemized, or had no state or zip code.

Walker, who was reelected last year to a second, four-year term, announced last week he would run for president. The governor cannot use money raised by his state campaign to run for federal office.

Walker has received millions of dollars in out-of-state contributions since the 2011 and 2012 recall races spurred by his successful effort to slash public employee collective bargaining rights. Campaign finance reports in recent years have generally showed Walker accepted between half and two-thirds of his individual contributions from outside Wisconsin.

Fourteen of the 17 donors who gave the legal limit of $10,000 (or more) to the governor’s state campaign between January and June 2015 were from outside Wisconsin. Some of those out-of-state donors were:

  • Dick J. Randall, a retired Cupertino, Calif., building contractor, $12,200;
  • Grace Evenstad, of Naples, Fla., $10,000. Evenstad is identified in Walker’s report as a self-employed consultant who works in Dayton, Ore. Online information shows Evenstad and her husband own Domaine Serene Vineyards and Winery in Oregon;
  • John Flatley, of Milton, Mass., $10,000. Walker’s report identified Flatley’s occupation and employer as “management” and “self.” Online records and the personal and employer addresses listed in Walker’s report show Flatley is a Massachusetts real estate developer who owns the John Flatley Co.;
  • Gerald I. Flynn, of Los Angeles, Calif., president of Transportation Commodities Inc., in Commerce, Calif., $10,000;
  • Klaus Heidegger, of Chatsworth, Calif., $10,000. Walker’s report identifies Heidegger as owner of Monarch Inc. in Ridgecrest, Calif. However, online records identify Monarch’s owner as Eileen Shibley, and that Heidegger has been associated with five companies, but not Monarch, Inc.;
  • Wayne Laufer, of Sanibel, Fla., a retired oil company executive and engineer, $10,000;
  • Gerald Marcil, a real estate developer in Palos Verdes Estates, Calif., $10,000;
  • Dennis Troesh, of Henderson, Nev., $10,000. Troesh is identified in Walker’s report as a retiree. Online records matched with the personal address listed for Troesh in Walker’s report show he is a manager or officer for at CTTG Holdings and JABC Holdings.

Total individual contributions to Walker exceeded $100,000 in 15 states. Topping the list of out-of-state individual contributions to Walker during the first six months of 2015 were: California, $648,884; Florida, $479,008; Texas, $385,778; Illinois, $262,717, and New York, $182,624.

Wisconsin activists rally against big money in campaigns

Representatives of a coalition of 35 citizen groups, including the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, called on the Wisconsin Legislature to approve Assembly Joint Resolution 50 authorizing a statewide referendum in November 2014 on whether the U.S. Constitution should be amended to effectively overturn the notorious Citizens United ruling and related decisions that intensified the influence of money in politics and diminished the voices of ordinary citizens.

The call was made on Oct. 8, the day the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC, a case challenging a federal law limiting campaign contributions.

The Money Out, Voters In coalition rallied against big money in political campaigns at the Wisconsin state Capitol at about noon. Their focus was on Citizens United, the case that has allowed special interest groups to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections and also McCutcheon, which has been characterized as the “next Citizens United.”

“What’s at stake is whether we have free speech or fee speech, and whether we have a system of elected representation dependent on and responsive to the people or a system where money dominates,” said Wisconsin Democracy Campaign director Mike McCabe.

The coalition delivered a letter calling for a hearing on AJR 50 to Assembly Government Relations and State Licensing Committee chair Tyler August, a Republican from Lake Geneva.

And after the rally, activists lobbied lawmakers in both chambers.

The coalition involves: WISPIRG, People For the American Way, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, United Wisconsin, Center for Media and Democracy, South Central Wisconsin Move To Amend, Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, Wisconsin Farmers Union, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network, Citizen Action Wisconsin, AFT- Wisconsin, National Association of Social Workers – Wisconsin Chapter, United Council of UW Students, Midwest Environmental Advocates, 9 to 5, Madison Teachers Inc., Move to Amend of Southeast Wisconsin, Chippewa Valley Move to Amend, Move to Amend Rock River, Lake Mills Move to Amend, Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, Reedsburg Area Concerned Citizens, Wisconsin Grassroots Network, Madison Area Urban Ministry, Madison MoveOn, Peace Action Wisconsin, Sierra Club – John Muir Chapter, Door County Environmental Council, SouthWest Wisconsin Area Progressives, One Wisconsin Now, Progressive Dane, South Central Federation of Labor, Teaching Assistants’ Association, and Wisconsin Wave.