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Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013

Issue of the Week: Let the Free Market Promote Outdoor Sports

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It’s been a messy few weeks for those involved in the highly controversial lifetime grant the state awarded to the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation.

That’s the grant that then-Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford) slipped into the state budget after just a few minutes of committee debate.

Turns out that the United Sportsmen is just a front group for conservative and Republican operatives who wanted hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to roll into their coffers every year. The group was so politically connected that even high-profile conservative Republican donor Terry Kohler lobbied on its behalf. Kohler’s spokesman in this case is R.J. Johnson, the longtime leader of the Club for Growth Wisconsin. If the name R.J. Johnson sounds familiar, it’s because back in 2010, Johnson was advising Walker’s gubernatorial campaign and was routinely copied on emails that Walker’s county aides were sending on their personal email accounts about county matters, including the O’Donnell Park tragedy.

Gov. Scott Walker eventually pulled the plug on the grant, but only after much public outcry.

But do you see a pattern emerge?

Suder, Walker, Kohler, Johnson and their allies at the United Sportsmen are all “small government” types. They’ve built careers crusading against government spending and “social engineering” and for free market “solutions” to society’s problems. Walker, who only worked in the private sector very briefly, is such a big believer in the free market that he’s kicking tens of thousands of low-income workers off of BadgerCare so that they can get their health insurance in the free market.

Yet these folks pushed aside their belief in the free market when they were able to direct taxpayer dollars to their friends. If they were being consistent, they would accept the fact that young people are expressing their preferences in the free market by choosing video games and other pastimes over hunting and fishing. Instead, they want to impose what they think is the right pastime for young people, and for some it is definitely hunting and fishing. But then let the free market work and let the companies that sell hunting and fishing equipment promote the fun of these sports. They shouldn’t be using taxpayer dollars to try to “socially engineer” what they want young people doing at the taxpayer’s expense. If they are against government intervention and “social engineering” then they should just let the free market work.

Furthermore, Suder and his allies should have written the legislative proposal in such a way that legitimate hunting and sportsmen’s organizations could compete for it. Instead the legislation was written so just one group, essentially a right-wing political front group, was the only group that would qualify for the taxpayer dollars. Obviously all of the rhetoric about small government and free market competition seems to disappear when they start courting their campaign donors and rewarding their friends.

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