Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is scared — so scared that he is calling in a posse of Texas billionaires to try to save his political skin.
Facing the threat of a recall election, Walker poured money into a television advertising campaign to convince Wisconsinites that his attacks on collective bargaining rights, his budget cuts for education and local services, and his pay-to-play approach to politics are good things.
Wisconsinites weren’t buying what Walker was selling. On Tuesday, the recall campaign mounted by United Wisconsin will submit not just the 540,000 signatures needed to recall Walker but hundreds of thousands more.
This fight is going to happen. Walker knows he faces an accountability moment that threatens to end his long political career.
But he is not giving up easily. The governor is arming himself with all the money he can get his hands on. Big money. Texas money.
When Walker’s campaign announced a month ago that it had raised more than $5 million to fight the recall, there was an embarrassing footnote. Half of the governor’s campaign kitty came from donors who did not live in Wisconsin. Remarkably, 10 percent of all the money Walker had raised came from one Southern state: Texas.
That’s why Walker returned to Texas Thursday.
Officially, the governor was there to address the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a pressure group developed with support from two of Walker’s biggest donors, billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, to promote pro-corporate policies.The foundation is a Texas version of the American Legislative Exchange Council, the national group that the Kochs and other billionaires and corporate CEOs fund as a tool to push legislation that undermines labor rights, removes accountability for corporations and makes it harder for citizens to vote.
Unofficially, but far more importantly, the embattled governor was in the Texas capital to grab some face time with his base: wealthy Texans.
They have already been generous to him. But Walker wants a whole lot more of their money.
And they’ve got it to give.
One of Walker’s top Texas donors is H.R. Perot Jr., the son of the billionaire former presidential candidate. Young Perot’s wealth is estimated at $1.5 billion, and he has shared generously with Texas Republicans such as governor and soon-to-be-former presidential candidate Rick Perry. Perot gave Walker $20,000, according to research by the Center for Media and Democracy.
Margaret Crow, a Dallas “housewife” whose late husband, Trammell Crow, was one of the nation’s wealthiest real estate investors, gave Walker $25,000.
John Nau, a Houston beer distributor who owns the nation’s largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products, and who was a key donor to George W. Bush, gave Walker $40,000.
Then there’s Bob Perry, who is worth the price of a plane ticket to Texas for any politician who needs mega money. Perry created a home-building empire in Texas and drew national attention in 2004, when he funded the “Swift Boat” attack campaign against Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.
A veteran donor to Texas Republicans, including Gov. Perry (no relation, but plenty of strings attached), Perry has found a new favorite governor: Scott Walker. Perry’s donation to the Walker campaign came in the form of a $250,000 check delivered on Dec. 4, 2011.
That may sound like major money. But Perry provided one of the largest donations in history to former White House political czar Karl Rove’s American Crossroads project. In the fall of 2010, Perry donated $7 million to the group Rove used to propel Republicans into a series of victories in the fall 2010 elections.
If there is one thing that Scott Walker keeps track of, it is the sort of campaign contributor who writes seven-figure checks.
Walker has already bagged a six-figure check from the “Swift Boat” donor. But he wants more from Perry, and from Texas.
Because Scott Walker knows that the only thing that could possibly keep him competitive in a Wisconsin recall election is Texas money.
John Nichols is the associate editor of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org