The cost of providing security for Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch has more than tripled since the duo took office, new state records show.
Taxpayers spent $2.23 million on security, including salary, benefits, out-of-state lodging and other expenses, in 2013, according to Walker’s office. That’s up from $657,457 in 2010, the last year Gov. Jim Doyle was in office.
Walker communications director Jocelyn Webster noted that until 2011, the state did not provide protection for lieutenant governors. That’s when Walker and other public officials received dozens of threatening emails related to controversial legislation to curb public sector collective bargaining.
“Given the difference in circumstances, it was determined to be necessary to provide security to the current lieutenant governor, which obviously contributes to some of the additional security costs,” Webster said.
Walker, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, has taken numerous out-of-state trips, some related his high national profile.
Total security spending has increased 41 percent since 2011, from $1.58 million to $2.23 million.
In 2012 it totaled $1.95 million.
Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson called the increase in security spending “jaw-dropping” and said Walker’s campaign should reimburse the state for the increase over previous governors.
“We’re paying some guy to stare at Scott Walker while he does junkets across the country trying to increase his tea party credentials,” Larson said. “The governor should reimburse the state for all the extra money we’re throwing at these guys while he goes on these.”
Democratic Party of Wisconsin spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said the governor and his family should have a security detail, but the current setup isn’t being done in a fiscally responsible way.
“It is an incredible waste of the taxpayers’ money to have two homes under 24/7 security,” Baldauff said, referring to Walker’s home in Wauwatosa and the Executive Residence in Maple Bluff. “Scott Walker has raised enough money from special interest donors — he can afford to immediately reimburse the state for costs related to campaign trips.”
The records show Doyle had four primary agents provide security, whereas Walker had 10 primary agents starting in March 2011.
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The additional agents allowed for the protection of Walker, his wife, two sons and Kleefisch, said Peg Schmitt, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, which oversees State Patrol and the Dignitary Protection Unit. She said she couldn’t elaborate on other specific people receiving protection, including during the Doyle years.
Since 2006, the agents have been sergeants. Before that, they were troopers, Schmitt said.
Walker described the reasons he increased security in his book, “Unintimidated.” He wrote that Dave Erwin, who is now Capitol Police chief but previously was the head security agent for both Doyle and Walker, advised him to increase security because people were tracking his family’s whereabouts.
“Governor, I’ve been at this awhile, and when the hairs stand up on the back of my neck you have to be concerned,” Erwin told him, according to the book.
Walker also described some of the death threats that his family received.
One letter delivered to the Executive Residence addressed to Tonette Walker read: “Has Wisconsin ever had a governor assassinated? Scotts heading that way. Or maybe one of your sons getting killed would hurt more. I want him to feel the pain.”
Security agents have always provided round-the-clock security for the governor, regardless of event purpose, including for campaign-related travel, Webster said.
The Walker campaign has reimbursed the state $65,096 since January 2011 for use of state-owned vehicles to transport Walker and his wife, Webster said. Kleefisch’s campaign has reimbursed $28,970.
While total salary and benefits for security agents increased significantly between 2010 and 2013, “other expenses” as identified by Walker’s office also rose from about $50,000 to $263,000.
Out-of-state lodging increased from $19,671 to $34,479, though “other” out-of-state expenses stayed the same at about $26,000.
A review of individual expenses claimed by the agents show reimbursement for iPads and accessories, uniforms and equipment, and window tinting during Walker’s term. Destinations outside Wisconsin included Aspen and Vail, Colorado, Naples, Florida, and Sea Island, Georgia.
During Doyle’s last two years in office, there were purchases for electronic equipment, dry cleaning and passport photos. Several out-of-state trips were to foreign countries such as Japan, China, Denmark and Israel.