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Foxconn cartoon

Pardon me for wondering if Wisconsin taxpayers haven't given Scott Walker a $4 billion campaign donation.

There's been clear evidence during the past several months that folks outside southeast Wisconsin aren't overjoyed that the governor is spending all that money in one tiny corner of the state. What about the rest of Wisconsin? many are asking. Couldn't $4 billion be passed around to small businesses and entrepreneurs across the state instead of going to subsidize one mammoth Foxconn factory near the Illinois border?

Walker, a master politician, could read the numbers.

So maybe it's not a coincidence that the governor's public relations machine has been pumping out press releases every time Foxconn hires some small contractor in the far reaches of Wisconsin to help with the building of the Racine County factory.

And Walker, with Foxconn officials in tow, has arranged for press conferences to make sure locals know that at least a piece of that $4 billion Foxconn subsidy is coming their way.

Even better in an election year, the governor accompanied Foxconn officials, who have been giddy over Walker's subsidy for their plant, on trips, first to Green Bay, and then last week to Eau Claire, to announce that this suddenly kindly corporation will build facilities in their communities employing up to 150 people.

Considering Foxconn's record of changing its mind, you might forgive those who say they'll believe it when they see it.

But, what better way to attack the negative fallout about the biggest subsidy to a foreign corporation in American history than to pick out some upstate communities with lots of voters and announce a modest investment?

Former Milwaukee Journal staffer and now blogger James Rowen wonders if the governor's campaign ought to be reimbursing taxpayers for Walker's travel, security expenses and other costs on these blatantly political excursions.

And perhaps Foxconn ought to begin listing its expenses as campaign donations. The Taiwan-based corporation and the governor's office, after all, are coordinating these events.

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That leads to an even more intriguing question, Rowen adds. Can a foreign business make such donations to an American election campaign?

Frankly, there isn't much anyone can do about it. It's another advantage that falls to the incumbent in an election year. He who controls the purse strings, controls the message.

It's just a little slippery, nevertheless.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel. 

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