Do Americans, even in anxious times, prefer an optimistic leader or an angry one?
By Rebecca Kemble
A tough week in the news didn’t stop Scott Walker from doing what he does best: fundraising. On Friday he held a $500/plate luncheon fundraiser at the Nakoma Golf Club in Madison. People for the American Way called for a protest outside the club to let Walker and his supporters know what they think of the outsized influence of money in politics, and of the inhumane and unjust policies that this influence buys.
Several dozen people showed up across the street from the golf club with bullhorns and signs ready to sing, chant, and get their message out to the Walker donors. Two members of the Raging Grannies passed out lyrics to their version of “My Country Tis of Thee” entitled “My Country Has Been Sold” and kicked off the event in song:
My country has been sold
To those with corporate gold
It’s them I fear.
With our elections stacked
Our civil rights attacked
And corporate-written laws a fact
Their path is clear.
They balk at climate rules
While pushing fossil fuels
That rape our land.
They miss the Gilded Age
With workers in a cage
Inciting, then ignoring rage
Let’s take a stand.
Walker, who is notoriously averse to appearing in public and enters his office in the Capitol by means of secret tunnels, managed to arrive at the venue through a back entrance, unseen by the activists on the street. But the country club set who came to see him were not afforded that same privilege. Arriving in Audis, Cadillacs, Mercedes Benzes, BMWs, Acuras and Saabs, they were exposed to a minute or two of the rabble’s opinions as they pulled into the parking lot and rushed inside.
Outside the club on the street, drivers of a postal service truck and a taxi gave the “democrabeep” to the rhythm of the chant “This is what democracy looks like,” while other passers-by extended a solidarity fist or a thumbs up to the crowd.
One golf club member exiting the parking lot was downright apologetic, making a point of telling folks that he supports Mary Burke for Governor, while another was defensive, shouting across the street, “You know Jon Erpenbach’s father golfs here.” Erpenbach is a Democratic state senator.
The signature wit and creativity of Walker’s opponents was on full display with the Raging Grannies’ catchy tunes, and posters depicting Walker as Marie Antoinette saying, “Let them eat cake,” and as the farmer in American Gothic who had just sold the farm in a no-bid sale against the better advice of his partner.
Here's a short video of the protest at the golf club:
The week was a bit of a nightmare for Walker following the release of documents from a secret investigation into potentially illegal campaign activities leading up to his 2012 recall election.
National news outlets picked up the story about how Walker solicited funds for the Wisconsin Club for Growth in 2011 and 2012, speculating that the appearance of corruption would hurt his chances for a presidential run.
The BBC even asked the question, “Is Wisconsin’s Scott Walker in Trouble?”
Among the documents released by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals was an affidavit from one of the investigators alleging that a $700,000 donation by Gogebic Taconite (GTac) to the Wisconsin Club for Growth amounted to a pay-to-play scheme. A comprehensive mining deregulation bill that was written with GTac’s controversial open pit mine project in mind passed the state legislature and was signed by Walker in early 2013.
On Monday following the document release, GTac announced that it would not be able to complete the necessary environmental fieldwork in time to prepare a license application by next spring.
Then on Wednesday Marquette Law School released poll results showing Walker and his Democratic Party opponent Mary Burke running virtually even. Burke polls slightly better than Walker among likely voters (48.6% - 46.5%), while Walker bests Burke among registered voters (47.5% - 44%).
On Thursday the Department of Revenue reported a $281.2 million shortfall in revenue collection for this past fiscal year. On top of the $2 billion in tax cuts the Walker administration has enacted since he took office in 2011, this sets the stage for a potential budget shortfall of more than $700 million.
Walker spent the week refuting and spinning the information, calling the document release part of a “political witch hunt” against him. Walker denied knowing about the GTac donation, blamed the press for lazy and sensationalist reporting aimed at bolstering readership, and tweeted, “We will end the 2013/2015 biennium with a balanced budget.”
Also on Thursday, the Court of Appeals ruled that more documents from the investigation may be released after review by the legal teams from both sides.
The decision about whether or not the investigation can continue is still under consideration by the court.