Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, an alumnus of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) from his time as a state legislator, received an award named after one of ALEC's founders, Paul Weyrich, in February 2012. The award went unnoticed at the time as Walker battled a recall election, but was discovered by the "2old2care" blog.
Weyrich, a Racine native who died in 2008, didn't just found ALEC. The right-wing political apparatchik was the founding president of the Heritage Foundation, and led the Free Congress Foundation, a politically and socially conservative think tank striving, as its website used to say, to "return [America] to the culture that made it great, our traditional, Judeo-Christian, Western culture." He helped shape the right-wing agenda for more than thirty years.
Walker received the "State or Local Elected Official of the Year" award, one of several Weyrich Awards announced at an awards dinner organized by Coalitions for America, an association of conservative activist organizations that meets weekly. Weyrich was its national chairman. This year's dinner was chaired by current Heritage Foundation President Dr. Edwin J. Feulner.
Weyrich and Walker had much in common. Weyrich famously said (video at left), "I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people -- they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down." In May 2011, Walker signed into law an ALEC-inspired "Voter ID" law that makes it harder for African Americans, students, and the elderly to vote. Two Wisconsin courts have ruled against the law, noting it would do nothing to prevent phantom "voter fraud" but would cause real obstacles for real Wisconsin voters. While voter ID in Wisconsin is on hold for the November 2012 elections, mysterious bill boards have appeared in Milwaukee's inner city declaring that Voter Fraud is a Felony! in an attempt to sow confusion and suppress the vote.
Apparently Walker was unable to attend the awards ceremony, as he was scheduled to give a high-profile speech at a fundraising luncheon held by the James Madison Institute -- one of the 59 right-wing state think tanks that are part of the State Policy Network -- at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Florida. As the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has reported, in the months before the recall election in June 2012, Walker made a habit of traveling out-of-state to headline events at these think tanks, often combining the trip with a high-dollar fundraiser.
Other award-winners did attend the Weyrich Awards dinner: Erick Erickson of RedState.com was named "New Media Person of the Year," an honor he shared with Andrew Breitbart at the inaugural awards dinner. Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), Chairman of the House of Representatives' Republican Study Committee, was named "National Legislator of the Year," and Paul Teller, Legislative Director of the committee, was named "Capitol Hill Staffer of the Year." The Republican Study Committee, which Weyrich also helped found, announced a formal partnership with ALEC this year, as CMD has reported. Investment manager and supporter of conservative religious causes Foster Friess (from Rice Lake, Wisconsin, pictured left) was named "Business Person of the Year." Friess received the inaugural, and more candid, Weyrich "Benefactor of the Year" award in 2009. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council was named "Faith Community Leader of the Year." Charmaine Yoest of the Family Research Council and the Susan B. Anthony List received the "Grassroots Organization of the Year" award on behalf of Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion group. And Justin Pulliam, a Texas A&M Leadership Institute graduate and founder of Conservatism 101 for College Campuses, was named Youth Leader of the Year. John Gizzi, White House correspondent and author of the weekly politics column, Gizz-ette blog, was named Media Person of the Year, but also appears not to have attended the event.