Is Gov. Scott Walker’s Book Deal Legal?

Refusal to Fully Disclose Payments Prevents Public, Regulators From Determining If Walker’s Compensation Meets Legal Requirements

MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker has, according to his state ethics filing, received more than $1,000 in compensation for “writing” a book. But how much more? According to One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross, Walker’s refusal to fully disclose the details of his book deal prevents the state ethics officials and the public from determining if Gov. Walker is complying with the state law that prohibits officials from unfairly using their public office for private gain.

“Wisconsin’s ethics laws prohibit elected officials from getting sweetheart book deals while in office. They can publish a book, but the compensation must be reasonable — something we have no way of knowing with Gov. Walker’s book deal because he insists on keeping the details secret,” said Ross.

Wisconsin’s ethics laws generally prohibit elected officials from using their public office for private gain. However, an exception in Wisconsin Statutes 19.56 allows an official to receive “reasonable” compensation for published work. In past advisory opinions, ethics regulators have said it is the totality of circumstances that determines if the compensation meets the test of reasonableness in the law. Gov. Walker has refused to disclose any terms of his compensation other than indicating on the statement of economic interest he is required to file he was paid more than $1,000 from his book deal in 2013.

Media reports earlier this year pegged Gov. Walker’s advance from the publisher of his book at over $340,000. The same report suggested that sales were also poor, barely topping 16,000 units sold since its release.

Ross noted that this is not the first instance of Gov. Walker hiding information from the public. For example, he has still refused to disclose the identities of donors to his criminal legal defense fund that spent nearly $500,000 to protect the Governor’s interests in a probe that netted criminal convictions of six close aides and associates.

He concluded, “When it comes to ethics Gov. Walker has shown time and again he doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. He ought to voluntarily come clean and disclose the full details of his book deal. And if he won’t, ethics officials should step in and demand he provide answers.”

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One Wisconsin Now is a statewide communications network specializing in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.