Governor Scott Walker's new "Reforms and Results" website touting the successes of his policies is allegedly a campaign website funded by taxpayers, according to a complaint filed Tuesday by the Wisconsin Democratic Party.
"At Best Inappropriate, At Worst Against the Law"
With Walker facing an "imminent recall," the website consists of "propaganda" and "cherry-picked facts" designed to help Walker's reelection, said Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Mike Tate on a Tuesday conference call. Tate says the law is clear "that state resources are not to be used for political gain."
He alleged the site bears a strong resemblance to Walker's campaign website, and seems to echo a call by Wisconsin Republican Party Chair Brad Courtney to spin the "successes" of Walker's budget repairs.
Tate also criticized Walker for apparently hiring a new employee to build the website and promote Walker's policies. "Walker has cut 1,032 jobs, but added a new position in his office," he said, "hiring a former newscaster tasked with documenting the successes of Walker's policies." On October 1, Walker announced the hiring of veteran television newscaster Julie Lund as Deputy Communications Director. Visitors to the "Reforms and Results" website are asked to contact Lund if they "have a story to share about how the Governor's reforms are getting results."
Walker's spokesperson Cullen Werwie said the governor's office consulted with the state ethics board before launching the website, and the information online had already been included in news releases.
Tate said Governor Walker has "a well-documented history of using taxpayer dollars to further campaign activities," noting a "self-serving" statewide tour Walker made as Milwaukee County Executive while running for governor. Tate also referenced what he called the "ever-widening corruption probe" related to an ongoing John Doe ethics investigation connected to the governor's aides and allies. As CMD has reported, in September, FBI agents raided the home of Walker's chief lieutenant Cindy Archer. She was the third Walker aide to have her computer seized as part of a suspected investigation into Walker staffers doing campaign-related work on the taxpayer dime.
Reforms and Results Website
"Since our reforms passed, a lot of people have wondered what kind of results we're getting and why the reforms were necessary," said Walker in a statement. "Reforms.wi.gov shows the results from our reforms and how they're working." Walker said local and county governments have saved more than $450 million because of the reforms, based on media reports and the Legislative Fiscal Bureau's estimates. That number includes increased contributions from public employees to their pensions and health insurance.
The pension and health care contribution requirements were agreed to by union leaders and were not the spark that ignited massive protests (and next month's campaign to recall Walker); public unrest was prompted by the governor's effort to impose extreme limits on collective bargaining, which Walker admitted saved the state no money. During the protests over Governor Walker's budget, Republicans tried to spin the controversy as being about pension and health care contributions -- even though unions voluntarily agreed to contribute more to their pensions and healthcare costs -- rather than about the attack on worker's collective bargaining rights. The "Reforms and Results" website appears to repeat those same claims.
The Democrats' complaint to the Government Accountability Board can be viewed here.
The "Reforms and Results" website can be viewed here.