MADISON, Wis. — According to a campaign spokesperson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will be arriving back in the state today from a trip to the key GOP 2016 presidential primary state of South Carolina. While in the state for a short week before he jets off to Michigan for the weekend for another political appearance, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross called on Walker to answer questions about the sweetheart deal to send state tax dollars to a partisan political front group that endorsed him in his recall election.
Ross commented, “During his brief time back in the state of Wisconsin this week, Gov. Walker owes the people some answers about his sleazy deal. He got caught red-handed trying to hand over millions of taxpayer dollars to a phony front group closely connected to GOP political operatives, including members of his own inner circle, at the behest of a wealthy donor. It’s time for Gov. Walker to fess up — what did he know, and when did he know it?”
The following is an updated timeline of events in the latest, and growing, scandal surrounding Gov. Walker’s administration:
June 13, 2011: United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation, Inc. files incorporation papers with the state of Wisconsin.
June 16, 2011: United Sportsmen of Wisconsin, Inc. files incorporation papers with the state of Wisconsin.
August 2011: United Sportsmen of Wisconsin sends out an absentee ballot application to voters in advance of State Senate recall elections that could tip the majority from Republicans to Democrats. The applications include erroneous dates and seem to have targeted Democratic leaning voters. The material, and their errors, are nearly identical to similar mailings distributed by the group Americans for Prosperity.
September 20, 2011: United Sportsmen of Wisconsin registers a lobbyist with state ethics and election law regulators.
May 9, 2012: United Sportsmen of Wisconsin endorses Gov. Walker in his recall election.
January 11, 2013: United Sportsmen of Wisconsin again register to lobby the legislature. Their efforts will include working on behalf of Gov. Walker’s declared top priority for the session — legislation to help an out-of-state mining company develop a four-mile wide pit mine in an environmentally sensitive area of Northern Wisconsin.
May 29, 2013: A provision quietly slipped into the budget under the direction of Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder creates a taxpayer funded grant to promote hunting and fishing.
June 6, 2013: Change made to statutory language removing a requirement that the organization receiving the state grant have 501(c)(3) status as a non-profit under the federal tax code.
June 30, 2013: Gov. Walker signs the 2013-15 budget, including the provision providing tax dollars to United Sportsmen of Wisconsin. The Governor partially vetoes a provision allowing federal tax dollars be issued to fund a portion of the grant, as that could impact the group receiving its ability to restrict or cease their lobbying activity.
August 2, 2013: Deadline for applications to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for the state grant.
August 21, 2013: Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder, author of grant provision included in the state budget provision, announces he will be leaving the legislature to accept a job in the Walker administration. The previous employee in the position accepted by Suder earned $97,500 — nearly double Suder’s salary as a state legislator.
August 25, 2013: News reports reveal that the budget provisions creating the grant were crafted to exclude numerous other qualified non-profit organizations and that the DNR never publicized the availability of the grant or solicited applicants outside of a posting on their website. The sole applicant was United Sportsmen of Wisconsin. The group had little to no experience in running the programming to be funded by the grant, but has extensive GOP political connections.
August 29, 2013: The grant to United Sportsmen of Wisconsin is approved despite mounting questions about the group. Gov. Walker’s appointee to run the DNR, former GOP state legislator Cathy Stepp, in announcing the award of the $500,000 to United Sportsmen of Wisconsin declares the grantee has met all legal requirements to receive state tax dollars.
September 3, 2013: Despite the revelation that their application for status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit group, allegedly filed in March 2013, has not been approved, Gov. Walker’s DNR notifies United Sportsmen of Wisconsin they will be receiving $50,000 as a first installment of the $500,000 called for in the state budget.
September 5, 2013: Walker declares that, while in Seattle, Washington making a speech to a right-wing think tank, he has ordered the grant to United Sportsmen of Wisconsin rescinded.
September 10, 2013: With Gov. Walker again out-of-state, additional reporting raises more questions about United Sportsmen of Wisconsin and strongly indicates that the group is in fact a for-profit corporation. In addition it is revealed that there are no records of the group filing or paying taxes in either 2011 or 2012, despite having received at least $235,000 in income in 2011 and spending over $25,000 to lobby state legislators in 2012.
September 11, 2013: United Sportsmen reverse themselves and admit they wrongly portrayed their tax status and that they are a nonprofit organization. However they failed to comply with IRS regulations and have not filed required, publicly available reports disclosing their income and expenditures for multiple years.
September 11, 2013: Reports reveal the federal government repeatedly warned the state that the rigged grant for United Sportsmen could endanger millions in wildlife funding for the state. Key legislators are allegedly kept in the dark by the provision’s author, Rep. Suder, while Gov. Walker utilized his partial veto to eliminate the use of federal funds and instead shift the entire funding to state tax dollars.
September 15, 2013: A newspaper story reveals that Terry Kohler, a major donor to Republican politicians and right-wing groups like GOPAC and Club for Growth, personally wrote to key legislators, including the GOP Senate Majority Leader, urging them to support, “a Sporting Heritage Legacy Grant to the United Sportsmen.” The letter was sent May 13, weeks before the provision was introduced publicly and inserted into the budget amid assertions any qualifying group could apply for the grant.
September 15, 2013: RJ Johnson, a longtime member of Gov. Walker’s political team and head of Wisconsin Club for Growth, is identified in newspaper reports as a spokesperson for Terry Kohler. Johnson’s wife Valerie is the treasurer of Citizens for a Strong America, a 501(c)(4) group that sent $235,000 to United Sportsmen in 2011.
September 16, 2013: A key player in the scandal, former Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder and reputed bid rigging budget provision author, is officially hired by the Walker administration at an annual salary of $94,000. Suder is reported to be supervising a staff of 19 as Administrator of the Division of Water, Compliance and Consumer Affairs at the Public Service Commission. His resume reveals he has never managed a staff of this size and lacks professional and legislative experience related to the job.