It has been a tough holiday season for Scott Walker. The state lost 14,600 jobs in November and a new government report indicates that Wisconsin leads the nation in killing public sector jobs. A November poll has support for the recall of the governor at 58 percent, up from 47 percent in the spring, and next week Wisconsin residents are preparing to file over 500,000 recall petitions to trigger a gubernatorial recall. Is it any wonder that Wisconsin's governor decided to fly to Texas to find a friendlier crowd?
Walker Addresses Koch-funded Policy Group
Walker was scheduled to address the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), a right-wing policy shop, funded by the Koch Brothers and central to promoting the agenda of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in the state.
Progress Texas executive director Matt Glazer says the group is the cornerstone of ALEC in Texas, helping to shape "model legislation" in areas such as higher education, healthcare, civil and criminal justice.
"The foundation develops legislation that then goes through the ALEC process," Glazer said during a January 11 news conference to draw attention to Walker's appearance in Texas. He also said that the TPPF helps staff some ALEC task forces and helps to develop and distribute their "model legislation." Separate investigative reports have pointed out how parts of the legislative agendas of both Walker and Texas Governor Rick Perry closely resemble that of ALEC.
Walker's visit did not go unnoticed by working people in the state. Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller and Occupy Austin organized a noon protest outside the conference. Folks in ten gallon hats held "Recall Walker" signs and chanted to be heard inside the conference. "People need to see the pattern. The assault on working families is a coordinated right-wing attack that requires a coordinated defense at every point where the issue of dignity in the workplace is engaged," said Moeller.
Raising a Fortune from Outside the State of Wisconsin
Many in Wisconsin suspect that the real reason for Walker's visit to the Lone Star State was to raise unlimited campaign funds prior to an anticipated spring recall election.
Wisconsin's campaign finance laws limited individual donations to gubernatorial candidates to $10,000 until November 4, 2011, when a loophole in the recall law kicked in and enabled Walker to raise unlimited funds from individuals from that date until the end of the election. From July 1 to December 15, 2011, Walker raised $5.1 million, the most ever for a single reporting period in Wisconsin. Forty-nine percent of the money came from outside the state, an astonishing number for a candidate who traditionally raised the vast majority of his money from inside the state.
The most recent campaign finance report showed that 27 people gave Walker more than $10,000. Seventeen of the 27 are from outside Wisconsin. Five of these 27 hail from the state of Texas.
Walker's Big Texas Donors
Here are some of Walker's deep-pocket supporters in Texas.
Bob Perry of Houston, Texas, gave Walker $250,000 on December 4, 2011. Perry's wealth comes from the homebuilding company Perry Homes, but he is most famous for bankrolling the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which funded the steamrolling of fellow veteran John Kerry during the 2004 presidential race. Perry's $250,000 is the largest donation to a political candidate in Wisconsin history. He is a big donor to Rick Perry, and he gave an eye-popping $7 million Karl Rove's American Crossroads group, one of the largest single campaign contributions ever.
H.R. Perot, Jr. of Plano, Texas, gave $20,000. He is Ross Perot's son, and has been called the wealthiest Texan of all time. Forbes has reported his net worth as $1.5 billion. He is also a big backer of Perry and the Texas Republican establishment.
John Nau, head of Silver Eagle Distributors, gave $40,000. Silver Eagle Distributors, headquartered in Houston, Texas, is the nation's largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products. He is a big backer of Perry and alcohol-related PACs in Texas.
Margaret Crow, a Dallas "homemaker," is the widow of Trammell Crow of Trammel Crow Co. and Crow Holdings. The Trammel Crow company is a giant real estate and investment firm in 14 U.S. cities and Canada. Mrs. Crow gave $25,000 to Walker and is one of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison's biggest donors. Among other controversies, Trammel Crow was sued in 2010 by the New York Attorney General for not constructing buildings accessible to the disabled.
As Wisconsin prepares for a likely recall election, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Executive Director Mike McCabe fears that we haven't seen anything yet. The latest reports include only five weeks of unlimited fundraising and do not include anonymous independent expenditures.
"We are seeing things we've never seen before in Wisconsin. There is nothing to compare it to," McCabe said.