Wisconsin governor greeted as Republican rock star

Apr 18, 2012, 6:51 PM

Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – The preacher’s son laughed and joked as he took a seat among the biggest players in Oklahoma politics, some of whom paid $10,000 to break bread with their conservative hero and get a photo snapped.

It was just another day on the road for Scott Walker. A year after his showdown with labor protesters, the Wisconsin governor has become one of the most sought-after figures in the Republican Party, keeping a jet-setting travel schedule more akin to a presidential candidate than a governor trying to survive a recall challenge.

“He’s exactly what this country needs in terms of leadership,” said banker Bob Emery of Enid, Okla., who was seated at a nearby table, clearly in awe. “The courage he has had … is what wells up in me. The man is absolutely doing what he believes in.”

Walker now regularly huddles with the wealthy and the famous. He attended a Christmas party thrown by Grover Norquist, the conservative power broker, and raised money with Hank Greenberg, founder and former CEO of American International Group, at his Manhattan office.

Last week, he mingled with Oklahoma’s corporate elite and top Republicans at a fundraiser co-sponsored by Koch Industries, the oil company led by billionaire brothers who are top backers of conservative causes nationwide. Also in attendance were executives from Devon Energy Corp., which is building a 50-story tower that is changing the Oklahoma City skyline.

As Walker stares down a June 5 recall election, he has used his cachet as a conservative hero to rake in campaign cash never before seen in Wisconsin. And it’s put his Democratic challengers at a disadvantage in their effort to make him only the third governor in the nation’s history to be ousted in a recall.

“He has become something of a rock star nationally for right-wing conservatives,” said Mike McCabe, director of the government watchdog group the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. “There’s appeal there, and I think he’s found it pretty easy to get people to crack their checkbooks.”

Texas financier Bob Perry cut Walker two $250,000 checks and is his single biggest donor. Perry helped pay for the Swift Boat Veterans ads that attacked Sen. John Kerry during the 2004 presidential campaign.

Those weren’t the only huge checks. Three prominent Missouri home builders and contractors each gave Walker $250,000.

And Michael Bidwill, president of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals and a frequent donor to Republican candidates nationwide, contributed $25,000. But that didn’t even make him one of Walker’s top 30 contributors.

Fourteen of Walker’s top 20 donors are from outside Wisconsin, according to an analysis by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Nine people gave $100,000 or more, including Wyoming Republican Foster Friess, who heavily backed Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign.

The Oklahoma event, co-sponsored by Koch Industries, Devon Energy and other conservative heavy hitters, was a fundraiser for a think tank aligned with the Heritage Foundation. Participants paid up to $10,000 per table for premium seating and a chance for a photo opportunity with Walker.

Republican Oklahoma state Sen. David Holt, who has sponsored changes to the state’s binding arbitration laws that benefit municipalities, was thrilled to meet Walker.

“I sure hope that he survives the recall in Wisconsin, because that will send a signal to all of us that we can do this and we can survive politically,” Holt said.

Walker is getting similar reactions all across the country. He’s been to California, New York, Texas, Arizona, Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida just to name a few. On Friday, he was in St. Louis to receive the National Rifle Association’s Harlon B. Carter Legislative Achievement Award, the highest honor conferred by the gun-rights group.

Walker got loud cheers and a standing ovation both when he was introduced and when he completed his speech. As he approached the podium, a woman yelled out, “We’re with you, Scott!” He replied, “We’re with you too.”

All of the traveling helped him raise $12.1 million between January 2011 and mid-January of this year. That is the most ever raised by a candidate for state office in Wisconsin, breaking the record Walker himself set by raising $10 million on his way to victory in 2010.

“We’ve never seen this kind of thing before in living memory,” McCabe said. “There’s no precedent for it. We’ve never seen this much outside money in state elections in Wisconsin.”

McCabe predicts the total amount spent on the recall election will be between $60 million and $80 million, shattering the previous record of about $37 million from the 2010 governor’s race Walker won.

While Walker is tapping a national fundraising base, it’s not so easy knowing where he has been, where he is or where he plans to go. His campaign refuses to release his private schedule, saying it is under no obligation to do so.

Deputy Campaign Manager Dan Blum did not respond to a question asking why Walker was spending so much time out of state when he faces a recall. Walker downplayed his out-of-state travels during a stop in Oconomowoc, Wis., on Wednesday.

“It’s just a small factor,” he said. “In the last month I’ve made hundreds of stops. Only a fraction have been in neighboring states. Overwhelmingly it’s in the state of Wisconsin.”

Walker said his travels allow him to spread his message to people who may be interested in investing and creating jobs in Wisconsin.

Part of the problem with publicizing his schedule is that protesters tend to follow wherever he goes.

Union organizers claimed victory after Walker canceled an appearance at a November fundraiser in Wichita, Kan., with Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

Walker would not say why he backed out, but unions said their promise of having thousands of protesters there scared him away. Still, the governor was undeterred by about 200 protesters who lined the streets outside the Oklahoma City event.

During a Tuesday visit to Springfield, Ill., Walker was confronted by an estimated 4,000 demonstrators, many of them union members from Chicago and elsewhere.

One of them held a sign that said, “Go back to Wisconsin. Oh, wait they don’t want you either.”

___

Bauer reported from Madison, Wis. Associated Press writers Carrie Antlfinger in Oconomowoc, Wis., Jim Salter in St. Louis and John O’Connor in Springfield, Ill., also contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

FILE - California Gov. Gavin Newsom discusses the recent mass shooting in Texas during a news confe...
Associated Press

‘Join us in California’: Newsom targets GOP in Florida ad

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Gavin Newsom is running for reelection in California, but his latest television ad is airing in Florida. The 30-second spot scheduled to air on Fox News starting Monday takes shots at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his policies, while drawing a contrast with California. “Freedom, it’s under attack in your […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Police: Man shot was unarmed, officers feared he would fire

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — A Black man shot and killed by Akron police officers in a hail of bullets following a vehicle and foot pursuit was unarmed at the time of the shooting, but a shot appeared to have come from the vehicle during the pursuit, and officers said they feared he was preparing to […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Shark attacks Long Island lifeguard during training exercise

FIRE ISLAND, N.Y. (AP) — Suffolk County officials closed a Long Island beach to swimming Sunday after what they described as an unprecedented shark attack that injured a lifeguard. The lifeguard had been playing the role of a victim during a training exercise when the shark bit him in the chest and hand, Suffolk County […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Missouri lawmaker resigns from House after fraud conviction

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri legislator has resigned her seat after being convicted of falsely claiming she was giving patients stem cell treatments for COVID-19. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Sunday that Republican state Rep. Tricia Derges of Nixa sent her resignation letter to House Speaker Rob Vescovo on Friday. She was convicted in […]
14 hours ago
FILE - R. Kelly appears during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago, Sept. 17, ...
Associated Press

Feds: R. Kelly remains on suicide watch ‘for his own safety’

NEW YORK (AP) — Federal authorities are pushing back on R. Kelly’s claims that he was placed on suicide watch as a form of punishment last week after a judge sentenced him to 30 years behind bars for using his fame to sexually abuse young girls. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn filed court papers […]
14 hours ago
This image filed May 15, 2019 in federal court as part of a forfeiture complaint by the U.S. attorn...
Associated Press

Long-missing Alexander Hamilton letter put on public display

BOSTON (AP) — A letter written by Alexander Hamilton in 1780 and believed stolen decades ago from the Massachusetts state archives is going back on display — though not exactly in the room where it happened. The founding father’s letter will be the featured piece at the Commonwealth Museum’s annual July Fourth exhibit, Secretary of […]
14 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
...
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
Wisconsin governor greeted as Republican rock star