Walker Takes Leadership Position at Republican Governors Association

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was elected vice chairman of the powerful Republican
Governors Association at its meeting in Las Vegas this week.

“The American people want their political leaders to tackle the toughest issues, reform entitlements, and balance budgets while holding the line on taxes,” said Walker in a press release. “That’s exactly what Republican governors are doing.”

The recent election of President Obama and Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin suggests otherwise, but Walker disagrees.

“I think it’s not that our beliefs are wrong," said Walker. “I don’t think we do an effective enough job of articulating those beliefs and what it means in people’s lives.”

The Republican Governors Association may not be well known, but it should be. The group played a major role in the Republican takeover of the gubernatorial level in 2010 and 2012 elections. The GOP now controls 30 governorships.

The group spent millions in Wisconsin to get Walker elected in 2012, and to keep him in office during the 2012 recall election.

The Republican Governors Association and groups like it are starting to take the place of national political committees. They sometimes spend more money than the candidates. It’s understandable—these groups can raise unlimited amounts of money.

The groups file with the IRS as a nonprofit “527” committee. (The 527 refers to the tax code.) This status gives the group lots of flexibility, as there are no upper limits on contributions, and any type of donor can contribute.

The top donors to the Republican Governors Association are a who’s who of corporations: Amway, AT&T, Blue Cross, Koch Industries, PhRMA, and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

527 groups such as the Republican Governors Association are ways to shuffle money around, says Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. The groups act as clearinghouses “to wipe fingerprints off the money,” he says. Thus, voters are
unable to see which companies or CEOs are influencing their state elections.

And since the association is focused on state, not federal, elections, it is largely unregulated by the Federal Election Commission.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett was also elected to the executive committee of the Republican Governors Association and provides a perfect example of the shell game.

An October article published by the Center for Public Integrity and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism explained how in 2010, the Wisconsin state PAC of the national association gave Corbett more than 20 percent of his total fundraising, “making the RGA his campaign’s top donor,” even though Pennsylvania law bans candidates from accepting corporate money and the group is awash in corporate dollars.

“In a single day,” the article states, a $1.5 million gift traveled from the national organization “to the RGA Wisconsin PAC, then to the RGA Pennsylvania PAC and finally to Corbett’s campaign account. By the time the donation reached Corbett, it was impossible to identify the original source of the cash or whether the donation was permissible under state law.”

Walker and Corbett join other rising stars of the GOP on the executive committee, including Florida Governor Rick Scott, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.

Nearly all of these governors backed away from Mitt Romney’s comments about gifts this week, especially as they jockey for 2016 ticket.

Walker called for a break from the relentlessly negative effort the Romney camp employed. “There’s got to be a positive reason to support Republicans,” he said. The GOP, he said, isn’t “just for people who are currently not dependent on the government.”

But dependency on corporate cash? That’s OK.

If you liked this story by Elizabeth DiNovella, the Culture Editor of The Progressive magazine, check out her story "Jesse Jackson Jr May End Up in Jail Rather than Congress."

Follow Elizabeth DiNovella @lizdinovella on Twitter

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