Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
Wisconsin governor Scott Walker opened his 2014 reelection campaign this morning in typical fashion: at a campaign donor’s private business with a handpicked audience and select members of the press. Information about the location was not available to the public, nor was it made available to The Progressive, despite a request to the campaign for details of the event.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Walker spent 10 minutes at Dane Manufacturing early Tuesday morning touting his record as a tax cutter and job creator, even though he has failed to meet even half of his 2010 campaign promise of 250,000 new jobs. The donations given by Troy Berg, President of Dane Manufacturing, to Walker’s first gubernatorial campaign in 2010 fell just $25 short of the Federal Elections Commission limit of $2,600. Dane Manufacturing was also one of Walker’s first visits as governor-elect after the November 2010 elections to promote his tax cutting agenda.
As governor for the past four years, Walker has made a point of minimizing his exposure to the public. Police control public access to his first floor office wing in the Capitol building, which he usually enters and exits by means of restricted-access tunnels that lead to parking garages a block away.
Supposedly public occasions like lighting the holiday tree in the Capitol rotunda have been rescheduled from the noon hour to early in the morning just as the building opens. Significant bill signing events – like the budget bill or the crowning jewel of his jobs plan, a mining deregulation bill – are heavily stage-managed and take place at private businesses with limited access and tight security.
But who can blame him? The slash-and-burn policies he has championed – like eliminating meaningful collective bargaining for public workers, turning back billions in federal funds for high speed rail and Medicaid expansion, massive corporate tax cuts and catastrophic cuts to public education — have been wildly unpopular, generating sustained outrage and protest within the capitol and throughout the state.
After the uprising of 2011 when 200,000 people flooded the streets of Madison, people have hounded Walker wherever he goes. And in Walker’s own office building, an hour-long, daily singing protest of his policies has been going on for more than three years despite repeated attempts to suppress it.
In this memorable protest at a Beloit area rest stop in the summer of 2011, Walker maintains the constant stream of platitudes and sound bytes, playing to his real audience – out-of-state political backers and campaign donors — despite the intensity of the sentiment against him by the Wisconsinites actually present at the event.
At this point in his political career, Walker doesn’t even pretend to be a public figure, let alone a public servant who is concerned about the will of the people or the fundamental job of actually governing. He is a sharply honed political tool for whom campaign donations and skewed polling numbers trump all other concerns.
After the 2010 republican gerrymandering of legislative districts and the recent enactment of new state laws that restrict voter access to the polls, Walker is now even more free to curry favor with his out-of-state campaign donors, regardless of how the people of Wisconsin are faring under the massive deregulation and privatization of public goods and services over which he has presided.
Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who accompanied Walker to Dane Manufacturing this morning, has been even more forthright in her kow-towing to corporate interests, famously telling a select group of business executives at an invitation only “listening session” on tax reform last December, “We want to know how we can love you more.”
In light of the recent McCutcheon vs. FEC decision that blasts the cap off of the number of campaign donations people can make to PACs, candidates and parties, the sky is the limit on how much his backers can invest in him. Their strategy so far has been tremendously successful, as Walker has crushed organized labor, eliminated legal and regulatory barriers to the all-out exploitation of the state’s natural resources and opened the state treasury to the school privatizers in the financial industry.
Earlier today the headline for the Wisconsin State Journal’s story about Walker’s campaign event read, “Gov. Scott Walker kicks off 2016 reelection campaign.” Though Walker continues to be cagey about whether or not he will run for President in 2016, perhaps the select group of media outlets that receive invitations to his private audience events know something to which the rest of us are still not privy.