The head of a state government watchdog group says he’s not surprised by news that a wealthy Wisconsin resident secretly donated money to a conservative group which provided backing to Governor Scott Walker.
The report from Yahoo! News claims John Menard Jr. donated $1.5 million to the Club for Growth, a conservative group that supported the governor during the recall elections. The article points out that the Menard’s chain of home improvement stores has benefited from $1.8 million in special tax credits, along with reductions in environmental regulations, under the Walker administration.
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign director Matt Rothschild said the revelations are yet another example of how “Wisconsin is for sale” and why campaign finance reform is badly needed in the state. Rothschild said it’s is unlikely to go away either, until the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Citizens United decision, which led to largely unregulated corporate contributions to political causes, or an amendment to the U.S. Constitution is adopted that says “once and for all, corporations are not persons, money is not speech, and we can regulate expenditures and contributions during campaigns, so our government isn’t up for sale.”
Governor Walker was in meetings at the Capitol Tuesday, after the story came out. An aide to the governor said he did not have time for questions from the press, following a meeting of the state building commission, but his office did release a statement. Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said the Yahoo! story is “misleading and purposefully left out important contextual facts, which were provided to the reporter, to create a false narrative.”
Patrick added that the contracts that provided performance-based tax credits to Menard’s were done through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and that “Governor Walker was not involved in either contract.” She also pointed out that “Menard has so far received the same number of citations under the Walker administration as under the Doyle administration, which is one under each. The issue under our administration was resolved.”
The information in the report was obtained from anonymous sources with knowledge of a stalled John Doe probe into illegal coordination between Walker’s campaign and conservative groups during the 2012 recall election. The future of the investigation is set to be considered by the state Supreme Court later this year.