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Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014

Walker’s Wisconsin Is Drowning in Corruption

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No one knows for certain who discovered water, but we can be pretty sure it wasn’t a fish. When you’re completely immersed in something, it can be impossible to see it.

That’s one possible explanation for Gov. Scott Walker and Wisconsin Republicans insisting there’s absolutely nothing wrong with secretly receiving $700,000 from Gogebic Taconite, the mining company that helped write the state law gutting mining regulations that Walker and Republicans sped through the Legislature.

When your state government is immersed in corruption, after a while politicians lose their ability to tell right from wrong.

Of course, the other explanation is simply that Walker and state Republicans are so used to lying about what they’ve been doing, they think we’ll believe anything they say, even when it’s clearly not true.

The only reason the citizens of Wisconsin know about the secret donation of nearly three-quarters of a million dollars from the mining company to Walker and other Republicans is the public release of documents in the John Doe investigation into what prosecutors describe as a vast “criminal scheme” directed by Walker and his operatives to violate state election laws.

Whether you’re Democrat or Republican, most honest citizens surely think the public has a right to know about such a whopping political payoff being made to the governor and Republican lawmakers writing legislation that could mean millions in profits for the company making the donation.

Instead, it was intentionally kept secret as Walker and Republicans destroyed generations-old environmental protections and oversight regulations to permit a massive open-pit iron mine that would haul away huge swaths of two scenic northern Wisconsin counties and threaten waterways with toxic mining waste.

And guess who advised the mining company and other deep-pocketed donors how to make unlimited contributions to Republican officials without anyone knowing about it?

This is from an email publicly released in the John Doe: “The governor is encouraging all to invest in the Wisconsin Club for Growth. Wisconsin Club for Growth can accept corporate and personal donations without limitations and no donors disclosure.”

That’s a direct quote from Walker campaign consultant Kate Doner, whose fundraising firm has been paid $1.2 million by Walker’s campaign for work in his recall election and his current campaign.


Walker’s Campaign Sought to Break the Law

The Walker campaign’s solicitation of unlimited, secret contributions wasn’t just aimed at Gogebic. They also solicited such shady outside billionaires as Charles and David Koch, Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and the absurd Donald Trump.

The latest disclosure helps to clarify the importance of the laws Walker and his political operatives are accused of breaking.

Because campaign finance law is technical and complicated, many voters may have had trouble understanding exactly why secret coordination between politicians and outside supporters such as Wisconsin Club for Growth is illegal.

Here’s what makes it so corrupt: Politicians and their campaigns are required to disclose the identity of their donors and those donors have strict limits on how much they can give. Supposedly independent groups like Wisconsin Club for Growth, on the other hand, can keep donors secret and the sky’s the limit.

Anyone looking for political corruption behind the speedy passage of the state’s new mining law that destroys regulation and environmental protections would only know Chris Cline, the billionaire owner of Gogebic’s parent company, contributed $8,000 to Walker’s 2010 election, according to public records.

In fact, the mining company was reaping rich rewards from an enormous contribution of $700,000 the public knew nothing about because it was hidden as an anonymous contribution to Wisconsin Club for Growth, essentially a money-laundering operation that then spent the money to benefit Walker and his allies.

That’s the same reason behind outlawing coordination between candidates and outside groups. If the candidate himself controls outside spending by supposedly independent groups, secret, unlimited donations illegally pay for the candidate’s own advertising, which is required by law to be funded by publicly disclosed donors obeying legal limits.

All donor transparency and donor limits required by law for candidates would completely disappear.

Once again John Doe documents reveal Walker’s campaign intentionally sought to break the law. Also from Doner’s email: “As the governor discussed…he wants all the issue advocacy efforts run thru one group [Wisconsin Club for Growth] to ensure correct messaging.”

Of course, it was pretty easy to coordinate advertising by Walker’s campaign and Wisconsin Club for Growth since R.J. Johnson, a longtime Walker political operative, worked simultaneously for both Walker’s campaign and Wisconsin Club for Growth.

Wisconsin used to be nationally known for its squeaky-clean government. Today billionaires can secretly funnel millions of dollars in campaign donations to Walker and Republican legislators and be showered with legislative favors in return without the public knowing anything about it.

Walker says he doesn’t believe he’s done anything wrong. It’s really sad to think Walker could be so completely immersed in corruption he might actually be telling the truth.