If IRS targeting was an Obama scandal, what does United Sportsmen say about Walker?
Every few days or so, the black helicopters fly over the Heartland and drop Obama scandal fairy dust into the musty survival bunkers of America’s most stalwart patriots, where it finds purchase in the fecund imaginations of all who refuse to drink fluoridated water, vaccinate themselves against nearly defunct 18th century plagues, and loose their death grip on their assault weapons and Cherry Pepsi Big Gulps.
While I’ve dipped little more than a diffident toe into the vast online pool of Obama scandal theory, there are people who do a 400-meter butterfly stroke through this stuff every day, and if I believed half of what I read, I’d be worried Obama was planning to chloroform me, harvest my organs with an Al Qaeda box cutter, and use them to reanimate Karl Marx, Ho Chi Minh, Leon Trotsky, and Nancy Pelosi.
Every once in a while a fake Obama scandal gets mainstreamed by Fox News and the right-wing echo chamber. The conviction among conservatives that Obama is a scurrilous anti-patriot runs so deep that every whiff of impropriety is inhaled more deeply than crushed Oxycontin at a Toby Keith concert.
The IRS “scandal” was particularly dear to the right wing. It confirmed their belief that statist, big-government bullies were picking on them while giving a free pass to our nation’s vast and rising army of debauched lefties. And they were oh so sure that Obama — the Muslim atheist socialist warmongering bleeding-heart death-panel purveyor — was behind it.
Never mind that there was never a scintilla of evidence that this fake scandal could be tied to the White House. Republicans wanted it to lead back to Obama, so they kept implying that it did.
Then again, it wasn’t much of a scandal to begin with and never should have been trumped up the way it was. If you’re worried that nonprofits are not legitimate nonprofits and are too involved in political work, wouldn’t you want to examine groups that have “tea party” in their name? Of course you would. And you’d also want to examine liberal-tinged groups with “occupy” and “progressive” in their names. Which the IRS — under Cincinnati IRS manager and self-identified conservative Republican John Shafer — did.
In fact, none of the Tea Party groups that were scrutinized were denied tax-exempt status, but at least one progressive group — Emerge America — was. (Sounds like liberals have more reason to complain about this scandal than conservatives.)
Now, contrast all this with the recent attempt by Republicans in the state Legislature to selectively reward a phony nonprofit group with taxpayer money.
As has been widely reported, Republican legislators inserted language into the budget that helped secure a $500,000 grant for the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation, a group that was more heavily involved in lobbying for conservative causes than in doing anything resembling conservation work.
On Aug. 29, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote the following in a story about the DNR’s approval of the controversial grant:
United Sportsmen has been active in elections and lobbying over the past two years on behalf of conservative causes. But it has no history of doing the kind of training called for in the grant, though its board members have done so as part of other groups.
The grant was quickly approved in May in a session of the Joint Finance Committee on a motion written by Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford) and Rep. Dan LeMahieu (R-Cascade). The DNR posted the grant on an agency web page but did not put out a news release on it.
Its language prevented most established conservation groups, including the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and state chapters of Pheasants Forever, National Wild Turkey Federation and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, from applying for the grant.
So the grant, which was inserted into the budget by Republican legislators and approved by Walker’s DNR secretary, Cathy Stepp, absolutely reeks of political favoritism and graft.
Later, Gov. Walker vetoed language in the budget allowing federal money to be used to fund the grant. As the Wisconsin State Journal recently reported, that veto kept the grant alive, because the grant would have likely been deemed illegal under federal law. In fact, the original budget language, which called for using fed money, would have endangered $28 million in federal funds, according to two letters sent to the DNR from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Gov. Walker’s veto, then, ostensibly saved the state that $28 million.
Of course, Walker eventually rescinded the grant after the media started digging deeper into the story, but questions remain. How much did Walker know about this sweetheart deal, which was tailor-made to reward a single politically active conservative group with taxpayer money?
The fact that he vetoed the provision calling for federal funds — a veto that kept the grant alive — suggests he knew plenty. The fact that his duly appointed DNR secretary approved the fishy grant despite all the concerns that had been raised about it suggests he’s either lost control of his agency or tacitly approved of its actions.
So which “nonprofit scandal” is worse? The IRS scrutinizing the tax-exempt status of groups — on both sides of the political aisle — that are by all appearances politically involved, and our president being miles removed from the situation? Or a phony nonprofit nearly getting half a million in taxpayer money through the machinations of the DNR secretary and Republicans in the Legislature — all directly under the nose of our governor?
I’ll let you decide, but it looks pretty obvious to me.
Read more about it: I also must recommend “Jake Formerly of the LP’s” take on the GOP’s fishy grant at Jake’s Economic TA Funhouse. He has some interesting personal insights into what may have been behind Walker’s oh-so-convenient veto.
Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine – your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.