MADISON, Wis. — The scandal surrounding Gov. Walker’s attempt to reward an organization that endorsed him in his 2012 recall election with $500,000 in state tax dollars in the 2013-15 budget continues to grow. Breaking news reports today reveal that the group in question may in fact be a for-profit corporation that received at least $235,000 in income in 2011, courtesy of the right-wing Citizens for a Strong America. Yet according to information from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, there is no record of the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin filing a tax return or paying any income taxes for 2011 or 2012.
One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross commented, “Maybe Gov. Walker hasn’t noticed the stench of this scandal back home because he’s been spending so much time out of the state raising money. But it’s far past time for Gov. Walker to visit Wisconsin and answer the mounting questions about his sleazy attempt to reward his political allies with our state tax dollars.”
The following is a brief 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.