I haven’t been this close to a stinky mystery since somebody puked in the broom closet of my dorm! Eventually the culprit confessed and cleaned it up but only AFTER we all lived with the stench for a week.
In the case of Walker’s reeking United Sportsmen scandal the job of clean up fell to the press (customary) and it’s been 2 whole weeks of this stench.
The press did SUCH a good job that the story is now pro-Walker propaganda – -stunning given the story originally nailed a right wing front group, Kathy Stepp, Assembly GOP Majority leader Scott Suder, and by association JFC Chair Robin Vos and various top wingnutters to include Scott Walker.
Here’s where we were as early as yesterday:
“Sportsmen’s grant adopted despite warnings over loss of federal funding”
“Madison — GOP lawmakers plunged ahead with a controversial $500,000 grant to a politically connected sportsmen’s group even though U.S. officials had warned Gov. Scott Walker’s administration that the move endangered $28 million a year in federal money, records show….”
Now review NBC 15’s title from today:
UPDATE: Gov. Veto of Sportsmen Grant saved $28 Million
Scandal clean-up on aisle 15!
FOX also worked a mop in aisle 11:
Due credit needs to be given to Dee J. Hall and Mary Spicuzza from Wisconsin State Journal for setting up NBC 15 and FOX 11.
They penned this paragraph at the beginning of “Scott Walker veto aided controversial United Sportsmen group” on September 11th.
“Gov. Scott Walker’s use of his veto pen on June 30 helped keep alive a $500,000 grant that the politically connected United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation later won — then lost when it was revealed the group misled state officials about its tax status and its president was cited for illegal bear hunting.”
He kept it “alive”! Sounds like a paramedic. But what if he “saved” something. He’d be a savior. And of millions!
(Nevermind that it’s federal money which he usually gives away like it’s got cooties.)
About eleven hours ago that first paragraph got the savior treatment in FDLreporter.com:
“MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker’s veto of federal funding for a controversial sportsmen’s grant saved the state $28 million in federal funding, according to two letters released Wednesday by the state Department of Natural Resources.”
STAND BY SCOTT WALKER!
(It remains to be understood who exactly made the change – – the writers? The editors? In any event the writers’ name is on that.)
But wait – – Wisconsin State Journal can do better by Scott Walker and make sure his name is in the title: “Walker’s veto of sportsmen grant saved $28 million”
It makes a person wonder how Walker’s press secretary Tom Evenson makes this janitorial journalism worth everybody’s while.
I guess I should’ve put a mop image here but I was thinking of the dorm and – well – people wore flip flops in the dorm showers. Might be a good idea to quit going barefoot in Wisconsin, politics being messy as it is right now.
Image credit: Steve Johnson, creative commons license.
*Footnote on NBC 15:
Funny true story. Remember when NBC 15 filled out a permit at the Capitol building to see just how ‘hard’ it would be for the average citizen to get a permit for an event but instead of having a regular citizen do it – or perchance a known lefty – they had a reporter do it? And then NBC 15 didn’t show up AND forgot to rescind the permit? Good times had by all! I thought they were either dumb as a post or just doing a shitty absent-minded job.
You don’t suppose they were doing the Department of Administration a solid, do you? Those are the dots one naturally goes back to and connects after seeing NBC 15 doing obvious PR work for Our Dear Leader, Scott Walker.
Shout out to tweeter @NewWisGov for inspiring this story.
To refresh your memory, here’s the August 15th story:
Group with no training record may get $500,000 over 2 years
By Jason Stein and Paul A. Smith of the Journal Sentinel Aug. 25, 2013
EMAIL PRINT (484) COMMENTS
Madison — A $500,000 sportsmen’s grant slipped into the state budget earlier this summer is set to go to a group with ties to Republican insiders that has praised GOP politicians and lobbied for legislation such as lowering regulations on iron mining and development in wetlands.
The United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation Inc., a group formed in January with no record of its own in outdoors training, is the only applicant for the scantly noticed two-year grant to promote hunting, fishing and trapping in Wisconsin that is being reviewed Thursday by a special panel.
If the grant is approved, the state could end up paying it every two years to United Sportsmen, which has said in its application that it would use most of the money to pay its staff and consultants.
The carefully crafted grant requirements were unanimously voted into the state budget in May after just seven minutes of discussion by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, which acted on a motion drafted by outgoing Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford) and Rep. Dan LeMahieu (R-Cascade).
United Sportsmen has ties to several Suder allies, including his donors, lobbyists, a former lawmaker who worked on major concealed-carry legislation, and his former chief of staff.
The ties between Suder and United Sportsmen are making one budget committee member rethink his vote in favor of the grant. Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) said he thought it would be more competitive and that other groups could more easily apply for it.
“In hindsight, it seems like a sweetheart deal for one group that has ties to Scott Suder,” Mason said. “That was not how it was described.”
George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, agreed, praising the goal of the grant but questioning the criteria attached to it. The wording of the budget motion prevented Meyer’s federation from applying for the award.
“We aren’t criticizing the purpose of this at all,” said Meyer. “We think its purpose is important. But clearly it looks like it was put together for one group.”
In Wisconsin in recent years, the number of hunters has been declining, and angler numbers have been flat. That’s led to bipartisan support in the Capitol for efforts to interest youth in outdoor sports that have traditionally been a part of the state’s culture and economy.
In an interview, Suder said the grant would help to avert a “looming crisis” for hunting and fishing and ensure the future of those pastimes in the state. He said he talked to United Sportsmen and other groups about the grant but wasn’t aware that United Sportsmen would include his former chief of staff, Luke Hilgemann, in the application as one of its educators.
Hilgemann recently left his job overseeing and lobbying for the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity to take a job in Washington as the No. 2 executive for the group favoring conservative economic policies.
“I can tell you this, it has absolutely no bearing on any of this legislation,” said Suder, who argued the grant process was fair and open to other groups.
The deadline for the sporting grant application was Aug. 2 — the DNR listed the new grant on one of its web pages but did not put out a news release to let the public know about it. Scott Gunderson, No. 3 official at the DNR and chairman of the committee that will review the grant, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Suder said United Sportsmen was “eminently qualified” to receive the grant but when asked did not offer any specific qualifications. LeMahieu was traveling and unavailable for comment, an aide said.
According to its application and press statements, United Sportsmen’s board has included president Andy Pantzlaff of Maribel, John Meegan of Baraboo, Dean Hamilton of Waunakee, and Scott Maves of Oregon, who died in June.
Collectively, board members of United Sportsmen and family members contributed $2,500 to Suder last year, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Suder said he didn’t recall the donations but did regularly receive support from sportsmen’s groups.
Suder announced last week he was leaving the Legislature to take a better-paying political appointment within Gov. Scott Walker’s administration as a utilities regulator.
Pantzlaff said his group was excited about the opportunity to get the grant.
“We want to be a leader and bring a new model to promote the outdoor lifestyles,” Pantzlaff said. “The DNR doesn’t have to do everything, and this grant would allow an outside group to help with recruitment and retention.”
Pantzlaff acknowledged the foundation had not held any programs, but said he and other officers had served as hunting mentors and participated in training programs run by other groups.
If United Sportsmen receives the grant, Pantzlaff said the group plans to hire full- and part-time staff. He said it also would partner with existing groups and utilize existing facilities to run its programs as efficiently as possible.
It also would conduct fundraising projects to help it meet its goals, Pantzlaff said.
One of the educators listed in United Wisconsin’s application was Pam Galloway, a former GOP state senator from Wausau who last session helped pass a concealed-carry law — also a big priority for Suder — and later stepped down from the Legislature.
The Joint Finance Committee approved the grant in a quick 16-0 vote in its final action of the day on May 29 — just one routine vote among many in its weeks of grinding work on the budget. Once the committee adds an item to the budget, it can be difficult to pull out.
“It’s one of those things where they pass it out at the end of the day and you get 30 seconds to review it,” Mason said.
The motion said the grant can be given only to groups that are “not an affiliate of a national federation or organization.” That meant conservation groups such as the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and state chapters of Pheasants Forever, National Wild Turkey Federation and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation were prevented from applying for the grant.
And due to the lack of public notice, several eligible groups weren’t aware of the grant until after application deadline. Reached last week, Don Kirby, executive director of the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association, said he had no knowledge of the grant.
“Our organization would have been interested to pursue this,” Kirby said. “I’m more than a little disappointed to find out now.”
The Wisconsin Waterfowl Association has a long history of running Learn To Hunt and other training events.
However, United Sportsmen did get support letters for its application from some other groups such as the Central Wisconsin Chapter of Safari Club International and the Wisconsin Bear Hunters’ Association Inc., where Pantzlaff formerly served as a board member.
The application also required a state group to “have a relationship with a nationally recognized organization that provides proven and successful firearms safety education” and can use that relationship to host shooting events. In addition, the group is required to work with a “nationally recognized shooting expert.”
For United Sportsmen, that group is the National Rifle Association and the shooting expert is Darren LaSorte, a former longtime Washington lobbyist for the NRA. LaSorte, who until last year was a registered lobbyist in Wisconsin, worked closely with GOP lawmakers such as Suder and Galloway on gun rights legislation such as the concealed-carry law. LaSorte is now based in Texas and works for Ackerman McQueen, an advertising and public affairs firm whose clients include the NRA.
The NRA is a major player in Wisconsin politics, with most of its spending here benefiting Republicans who oppose new restrictions on gun ownership.
LaSorte, who also is a United Sportsmen board member, said he had not and would not receive any payment for his services. He said he didn’t know of any past training of sportsmen conducted by United Sportsmen but that the board members as individuals had a wealth of experience doing such work for the NRA and hunting groups.
A new group is needed to move away from the “same-old-same-old” approaches that are failing to recruit enough new hunters and fishermen, he said.
“Dramatic things need to be done,” LaSorte said.
In its application, United Sportsmen said it plans to create a “one-of-a-kind, one-stop-shop methodology to recruit and retain sporting enthusiasts.”
LaSorte said part of the foundation’s efforts would focus on changing state policies such as hunter safety requirements to make them quicker and easier. The current requirements call for 10 hours of training that goes beyond what is needed to hunt safely, LaSorte argued.
Though its foundation was legally established in January, United Sportsmen of Wisconsin was formed about two years ago and has been active in state policy, lobbying lawmakers in favor of sporting legislation such as the creation of a wolf hunt. But state records show the group also has lobbied for legislation less directly related to hunting, such as bills to ease the way for a controversial open-pit iron mine in northern Wisconsin and better enable development in wetlands.
“It is frustrating to hear people talk about bringing jobs or conservation as if it’s an either-or. It’s not. Conservation only happens when people have jobs,” United Sportsmen said in a March statement about the mine.
United Sportsmen also has put out statements praising Walker’s agenda on hunting and fishing issues.
LaSorte said the United Sportsmen foundation, the arm of the group receiving the grant, would do only public education efforts to change state policies in areas such as hunter safety and would not directly lobby in any area.
The five-member Sporting Heritage Committee is scheduled to meet Thursday in Madison to review the application.
The committee is composed of Gunderson, DNR executive assistant; Sen. Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn), chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee; Rep. Al Ott (R-Forest Junction), chairman of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee; and Mark LaBarbera of Hazel Green and Bill Torhorst of Oregon, both appointed to the committee by the DNR.
The DNR must notify the winner of the grant no later than Sept. 3.
According to the group’s application, United Sportsmen would use $370,00 on salaries and $20,000 on employee benefits over the first two years, plus $56,000 more on unidentified consultants.
The grant will provide $200,000 this year and $300,000 in 2014. Thereafter, it will provide $450,000 in each two-year budget. The grantee will have to provide $150,000 of its own funds in matching dollars in each future two-year budget.
The state money in the first year will be from general tax revenue; the DNR said it was still clarifying how the grant would be funded beyond 2013.
After the Sporting Heritage Committee meets next week, it will be disbanded, said the DNR’s Paul Heinen. If conditions such as the matching funds are met, the grant will be paid in perpetuity, he said.