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Fundraising component of Walker inauguration draws liberal criticism

Fundraising component of Walker inauguration draws liberal criticism

Gov. Scott Walker has been sent up by Wonkette not once, but twice, this month — something he'll have to get used to as his national profile continues to build in the lead-up to the 2016 Republican presidential primary.

The snarky political website published a tribute to the governor's several-year-old "Molotov" typo on Dec. 10 and days later its sights were set on something more recent.

In a post titled "Scott Walker Would Like All The Money For You To Pray With Him, Please," Wonkette writer Doktor Zoom offered a biting takedown of the format of Walker's inauguration celebration.

The celebration will span three days, from Jan. 3-5, with events in Madison and Milwaukee. It's being organized by the Republican Party of Wisconsin, and activities include ice skating with the governor, a prayer breakfast and a gala ball.

All events are open to the public, but require a ticket for entry. Prices range from inexpensive student tickets to $30,000 hospitality suites at the inaugural ball. Proceeds will be donated to the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

Walker's first inaugural committee split the proceeds from his 2011 inauguration — $165,000 — between his campaign and the state party. 

That broke with a tradition from Democratic former Gov. Jim Doyle, who donated the proceeds from his inauguration celebrations to Boys and Girls Clubs throughout the state.

Walker's decision to hold onto the funds in 2011 drew criticism from progressives, who held an alternative party to raise money for charity.

While his inauguration proceeds were not donated to charity, Walker collected food donations for the hungry at his 2011 celebration. A spokesman for the state GOP did not respond to a request for comment on this story, but officials told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel they are working on setting up a charity component for the 2015 inauguration.

The liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now was critical of Walker's decision to give proceeds to the state party rather than donate them to charity. It dubbed the event a "pay to pray" fundraiser, a nod to the $25 prayer breakfast.

"Scott Walker has one foot out the door for a 2016 run for the GOP nomination for president. It’s all politics all the time for him," said One Wisconsin Now executive director Scot Ross. "One shudders to think what Gov. Walker will do with a $70 billion state budget when he’s willing to require a political donation to ice skate or pray with him."

"The Republican Party of Wisconsin isn't being inaugurated and the idea Wisconsinites have to donate to a political party to participate in activities like this is another disgraceful example of a governor whose only concern is partisan political politics," Ross continued.

Ross said it was "reprehensible" that Walker recently had a "photo op" with the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County when the group won't receive any inaugural celebration proceeds.

In a column for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, One Wisconsin Now research assistant Saul Newton called the tour a "consolation prize."

Walker and his wife Tonette gave the club a tour of the holiday decorations at the executive residence on Dec. 10.

"They actually made the ornaments for the tree in the sun room, which is always one of the most popular displays," Walker said in his radio address that week. "We are big supporters of the Boys and Girls Club and appreciate all the work that they do for young children all across the state. In offering after-school academic enrichment programs, they provide tutoring and guidance, fostering relationships between children and a strong role model, the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County helps to prepare kids for success, both inside and outside of the classroom."

Michael Johnson, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, said the clubs throughout the state have met with the governor and first lady several times over the last few years, and they have been "very supportive" of the clubs' work.

"I serve on our national Presidential Advisory Council and serve on the state executive committee with other CEOs statewide, and the governor was instrumental in allocating more than $2 million in his budget to support tutorial services at Boys and Girls Clubs statewide, including funds that support our local clubs in Dane County," Johnson said.

Walker's decision to give funds to the state GOP comes after a court ruling in September that lifted limits on contributions from political action committees and blocked the portion of the law that puts limits on the amount a candidate can receive from political parties and legislative campaign committees.

That means individuals can contribute as much as they like to political parties, and the parties can then give unlimited amounts to candidates — a process that allows donors to bypass the $10,000 limit on individual contributions.