MADISON, Wis. — As questions continue over the impetus for Gov. Scott Walker’s sudden public support for a “right-to-work” law, an open records request by One Wisconsin Now has uncovered that the only two non-government employees who accompanied Gov. Walker on his ostensible trade mission to London, England were advocates for the wrong for Wisconsin right to work law.
“There are plenty of questions about the true purpose of Gov. Walker’s trip to London,” commented One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. “Add to them why of the twelve people on this trip only two were not state employees and what role did their outspoken support for a wrong for Wisconsin right to work law play?”
Gov. Walker’s state paid traveling party consisted of one person from his office, five Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) staff and a three person security detail. He was also accompanied by Dan Ariens who serves both the WEDC Board of Directors and chairs the board of Walker and right to work cheerleaders Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and Jim Paetsch, an executive of with M7 and a public advocate of right to work laws in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) has been an enthusiastic booster of a right to work law and major spender in state political campaigns. As chair of the board of WMC, Ariens oversees the efforts of their corps of lobbyists working the halls of the Capitol to tip the scales further in favor of CEOs while cutting the annual pay for average families by at least $5,000. Bolstering their efforts in the building, in recent years WMC has spent at least $11 million on supporting state legislative races and Gov. Walker’s campaigns.
Walker’s only other European travelling companion not on the state payroll was Jim Paetsch of M7, a Milwaukee area business group. Paetsch has been publicly quoted in news reports suggesting that Wisconsin must enact a right to work law, even when Gov. Walker was deceiving the public with his since expired opposition to the measure in advance of his 2012 and 2014 elections.
The tab for Gov. Walker’s trip to England is being picked up by state taxpayers but it has been widely reported by state and national press as his first foray into the international arena as a candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. In fact, a bumbling response to a question during his only public appearance on the junket drew a clarification issued by his campaign instead of his state office. Today it was announced Gov. Walker will again travel overseas to several European countries on the public dime in the midst of his pursuit of national office.
Ross concluded, “Gov. Walker’s first European junket, which was little more than a thinly veiled excuse to audition for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, just keeps getting more unseemly. Now we find out it was also the chance for Gov. Walker to huddle with corporate cronies to put the finishing touches on how he would sell out Wisconsin families to further ingratiate himself with corporate CEOs and wealthy right wing ideologues.”