MADISON, Wis. — Could a state grant slipped into the budget by the former Assembly Majority Leader, signed into law by Gov. Walker and rushed through the approval process by the Walker administration be used to help support partisan political activity? A loophole inserted into the budget provision authorizing the grant and the track record of the group in line to reap $500,000 in taxpayer dollars over the next two years certainly raises the possibility, according to One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross.
“This entire deal stinks,” said Ross. “The Republican legislature went to great lengths to ensure only one group would be eligible for the money, and then they crafted a loophole in the law that could allow the group getting the money to be one that could advocate for the election or defeat of certain politicians. And Gov. Walker signed it into law, no questions asked.”
The group receiving the grant, United Sportsmen of Wisconsin, has little to no experience related to what it ostensibly received the state grant for, training and promotional program to encourage participation in hunting, fishing and trapping.
United Sportsmen of Wisconsin also does not have, and because of the loophole inserted in the law need not have, 501(c)(3) tax status from the Internal Revenue Service. Groups with such status are prohibited by federal law from engaging in “political activity” like advocating for the election or defeat of specific candidates.
But what they do have are extensive ties with right wing political groups like the NRA and Americans for Prosperity and a track record of pro-GOP political activity. United Sportsmen of Wisconsin participated in a misleading absentee ballot mailing in the 2011 legislative recall elections, endorsed the re-election of Gov. Walker in his 2012 recall and co-hosted a rally exclusively featuring GOP officials in the days before the 2012 November election.
In addition, the “sportsmen’s” group lobbied extensively on behalf of the Republicans top legislative priority in the 2012 session, passage of a bill paving the way for a four-mile wide pit mine in a pristine environmental area of Northern Wisconsin.
Ross concluded, “We deserve straight answers from the leadership of United Sportsmen of Wisconsin and Gov. Walker. Right now, there’s nothing in the law to stop this obviously political group from using taxpayer money to subsidize efforts to re-elect Gov. Walker or punish his political opponents.”