Labor Signs.jpg
Signs supporting the protest efforts of demonstrators against Gov. Scott Walker's policies are seen in the window of Savoir Faire, a Downtown Madison gift shop.

About halfway down a Facebook page devoted to organizing boycotts of companies associated with deep-pocket political contributors to Gov. Scott Walker, there was this sobering comment:

"I don't think I can be part of this anymore," wrote Mary Possin, a small-business owner in Monona. Possin said she couldn't support the page's directions that consumers not buy products from businesses including Johnsonville Sausage, Sargento, Menards and M&I Bank.

"Has anyone considered the impact on the workers of these businesses? They will be the ones who are hurt," Possin added, noting small businesses that carry boycotted products would be most vulnerable. "The fat cats will still be fat."

But Possin's concerns — so different in tone and substance from the bulk of comments on this passionately anti-Walker, anti-big business page — were quickly dispatched by other posters, including page co-administrator Sam Hokin, who also runs a small business in the Madison area.

"I think we all share your concerns, Mary," Hokin said. "But the core issue is that we've reached a state of 'war.' Koch/Walker/etc. own the (governor's office), the Senate and the Assembly. That means that in the span of only two years, one budget cycle, they can wreak total havoc on the state, doing damage that can never be repaired."

"So yes," he added, "in times of war, there will be collateral damage."

With more than 9,600 followers by Wednesday afternoon, Hokin's Facebook page, titled "Boycott Scott Walker Contributors," is a central clearinghouse for information feeding this next wave of opposition to Walker's controversial budget repair bill and spending plan for the next biennium.

It gives those opposed to Walker's plans for deep spending cuts and the virtual elimination of public unions a place to focus their outrage, Hokin said — by letting people know which company's leaders and political action committees made big campaign donations to Walker.

"Basically the only thing corporations care about is money," Hokin said in an interview. "We can't really affect them by saying things or flashing (protest signs). The thing to do on a day-to-day basis is to try to reduce their revenues."

To identify Walker contributors, Hokin's page links to a campaign finance database maintained by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. It also helps followers send letters of protest to companies, provides a place for updates and shares ideas for more activities — such as organized pickets outside companies associated with Walker and a planned boycott of this year's Brat Fest because it uses some Johnsonville products.

In its place, a "Virtual Brat Fest" is being organized that lets people donate online to try to replace the money that Brat Fest raises for local charities.

And for those uneasy with targeting local companies for boycotts at all, sister pages such as "Pledge to Spend" have been created to promote businesses identified as "strongly pro-labor," Hokin said.

In other business-related political opposition, two groups of real estate agents — known as Realtors in Support of Public Employees and Realtors Against Governor Walker's Current Policies — formed recently, in contrast to the Wisconsin Realtors Association, which contributed to Walker's campaign.

Also, three popular Roman Candle restaurants in the Madison area pulled out of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association because it endorsed Walker and refused to make a statement in favor of collective bargaining.

The association, in turn, pulled its dining guide off its website, claiming protesters planned to use it to "harass our members," president Ed Lump said.

Lump also noted restaurants are big donors to schools for such things as scholarships, athletic programs and bands.

Christine Wallace, a spokeswoman for Johnsonville Sausage, said the company respected its customers' "passion for this issue" and their interest in the political process.

"We are hopeful both sides of this debate will work to resolve the issues that are facing our state," the statement read.

M&I Bank also released a statement noting that by law, individual employees make political contributions "at their own discretion," rather than the company itself directly.

And a statement from Menard Inc. said "some of (our) team members may or may not have" given money to Walker's campaign, adding, "We know some gave to (Democratic candidate Tom) Barrett as well."

The rest of Menard's statement read, "We feel badly that some want to boycott us. We have the lowest prices and the biggest, most beautiful stores run by some of Wisconsin's friendliest, hardest-working folks. We are a family-owned Wisconsin company that employs a lot of good Wisconsin citizens throughout the state. We hope calmer heads will prevail soon for the sake of all concerned."

Capital W: Plug in to Wisconsin politics

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