It’s not just your environment Walker is damaging. Since his election, he has interfered with the practice of democracy in Wisconsin. He’s used an extremist template for suppressing the vote including Voter ID laws, limiting voting hours, approving wildly gerrymandered redistricting, and dismantling the Government Accountability Board.
Walker’s elections have been funded largely by out-of-state corporate special interests that care little for Wisconsinites. Walker even tried to deny representation to thousands of voters by refusing to call for special elections. Taking back Wisconsin isn’t just about clean water and air – it’s also the fight to protect your most sacred individual rights.
1. Walker prioritized big business over your air, land, and water
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce works aggressively against environmental and public health protections, spending money supporting the most anti-conservation bills and legislators in Wisconsin, including the Industrial Acid Mining Bill (2017 Act 134) and Senator Tom Tiffany. Last year, WMC initially opposed a bill that aimed to protect children from lead poisoning (SB 48). WMC raised and spent about $33 million between January 2006 and December 2017, according to watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. WMC spent the bulk of that on broadcast ads to support anti-conservation candidates and smear the opposition. Governor Scott Walker has been the top beneficiary of WMC’s outside election spending. The group has shelled out an estimated $9.5 million to help keep him in power.
2. Walker took big money from big polluters
Liquid manure is poisoning water across Wisconsin. Wisconsin families cannot drink their water, and yet the Dairy Business Association has lobbied for looser rules and policies that continue to exacerbate an environmental emergency. DBA lobbyists met with Walker last year to encourage moving more authority away from the Department of Natural Resources to the agriculture department, a move that would further erode the DNR’s enforcement abilities. The DBA also met with Walker to discuss changes in manure spreading rules aimed at protecting drinking water, especially in sensitive areas of the state like Kewaunee County where some faucets run brown with manure pollution. The result of their interference resulted in weaker rules. The organization and its staff and board spent $713,461 to keep Walker in charge, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. The result is a statewide drinking water crisis. Not only that, many of its board members own factory farms and some have themselves spilled millions of gallons of liquid manure in violation of established rules.\
3. Walker tried to kneecap the Department of Natural Resources
In his 2015-2017 budget, Walker tried to convert the Natural Resources Board into an advisory entity with no oversight capabilities. The seven-member board represents a diverse geographic and professional cross-section of people. It helps direct the agency and is responsible for providing public input on natural resources decisions. Without it, Walker’s appointee would alone set policy for the agency, further centralizing Walker’s power over our natural resources. Thanks to huge public outcry, the move was pulled from the budget.
4. Walker refused to hold special elections
The state statute is clear: legislative vacancies “shall be filled as promptly as possible by special election.” However, Walker, fearing another win by pro-conservation candidates like Sen. Patty Schachtner in Senate District 10, skirted the rule of law and left thousands of citizens without representative government for months. It took three court rulings to force Walker to hold the special elections, which he finally did on the day he could have been held in contempt had he refused. Walker’s willingness to reject the basic tenet of democracy – representative government – was a chilling reminder he cares little for the people of Wisconsin’s rights under the state’s constitution. He had reason to be afraid. Voters in Senate District 1 elected conservation champion Sen. Caleb Frostman over a longtime anti-conservation incumbent.
5. Walker sold a $500,000 political gift as a pro-sportsmen initiative
In 2013, Walker used his veto power in the state budget to allow a $500,000 grant to partisan electoral group United Sportsmen of Wisconsin. The original intent of the grant was to further the state’s sporting heritage by creating shooting ranges or acquiring and managing fish and wildlife habitat. As a purely electoral group, United Sportsmen did not have any experience with hunter safety or wildlife management, nor did it have the necessary nonprofit tax-exempt status. To top it all off, the United Sportsmen’s president was cited for illegally hunting bear. After it was revealed the group’s parent organization donated to Walker’s campaign, was exposed as a fraud sportsmen group, and fibbed about being a nonprofit, the DNR announced it was not awarding the grant to United Sportsmen. It was a clear indication that Walker is willing to sell out Wisconsin’s sportsmen for campaign cash.
6. Foxconn Edition: Walker sidestepped our state’s appeals courts just for Foxconn
Walker approved his own Foxconn bill after lawmakers added a provision allowing appeals of Circuit Court decisions related to Foxconn to be fast-tracked directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing state Court of Appeals. Rather than allow the judicial system to operate as intended, Walker directed any challenges by parties to Foxconn be brought directly to the state Supreme Court that is stacked with justices willing to approve whatever Walker wants.
7. Walker restricted early voting
In 2014, Walker signed a bill (SB 324) that that limited clerk’s office hours and the days available for early voting. It eliminated weekend voting and restricted voting hours. Before the law, municipalities could offer early voting as soon as ballots were printed for about 30 to 45 days including weekends, through the final day before the election.
8. Walker enacted voter ID laws
In May 2011, Walker signed a law (AB 7) requiring a photo ID to vote. The law plants Wisconsin among only five other states that have the same strict requirement: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, and South Carolina. A recent report estimates thousands of voters were disenfranchised by the law in 2016. The UW-Madison study reports 11 percent of voters eligible to cast a ballot in Dane and Milwaukee counties but who did not, cited the voter ID as why. That translates to between 16,000 and 23,000 votes.
9. Walker dismantled the Government Accountability Board
In 2015, after investigations into his own campaign dealings, Walker signed legislation (AB 388) that dismantled the Government Accountability Board (GAB). The GAB, created under Gov. Jim Doyle, was a bipartisan effort championed by both parties, including party leaders like now-Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald. In addition to dismantling the GAB, Walker also signed AB 387, which dramatically altered the state’s campaign finance laws, loosening restrictions on coordination between outside groups and politicians.
10. Walker approved radical gerrymandering
Called by experts as some of the most extreme gerrymandering in U.S. history, Walker signed SB 148 into law in 2011 new district maps that were extraordinarily partisan. Walker signed the bill privately on the same day of his recall election. Due to its extreme gerrymandering, court challenges went all the way to the Supreme Court. The matter is still being resolved before a district court that had ruled the districts unconstitutional.
To be continued…
There’s so much more to learn about the damage Walker has done to Wisconsin. Every two weeks – until Wisconsin has a new governor – new items will be added to the Walker’s Wisconsin pages. Sign up for emails to get a heads up when we do. Check out more of Walker’s Wisconsin!