Walker/DNR Pay-to-Play United Sportsmen of Wisconsin $500,000 crony scandal tied to GOP donors and Koch Brothers

The Walker Administration seems to be fueled by Koch Brothers dirty money to be able to float along in a polluted sea of pay-to-play schemes, voter disenfranchisement, theocratic extremism, crony kickbacks for political contributions from well-heeled billionaire out-of-state interests, corrupt no-bid contracts and carelessly inept rejection of millions of dollars of federal funds for programs pertaining to health care, infrastructure improvements, education and scientific research that pilfers state taxpayers who end up having to foot the bill.

Combining templated pre-packaged far-right Koch Brothers-approved legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) with Right Wing Echo Chamber-spawned Obama Derangement Syndrome, this typical Republican administration continues to wrack up more scandals that come at a dizzying pace.

So it would be no surprise that a front group named the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin (USW) was created by staff with the Koch Brothers-funded Americans For Prosperity (AFP) and the National Rifle Association (NRA) that had heavily supported and financially backed Walker in his recall race in 2011. The USW also dutifully endorsed Walker in his recall race in 2011:

“Promises Kept” To Gun Owners And The Sporting Community
Today the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin are proud to endorse Governor Scott Walker in the re-election to be held June 5th, 2012. Sportsmen have had a historic year in regards to gun legislation, hunting opportunity, recruitment of new hunters, a more customer friendly DNR, and habitat improvement.
“Gun ownership and sporting issues have long been taken for granted until Governor Walker was elected,” said Andy Pantzlaff, Vice President of USW. “He made gun rights one of his top priorities in his administration.” The many bills Governor Walker signed into law include Conceal Carry, Castle Doctrine, elimination of Earn a Buck, Wolf hunting season, and Sporting Heritage bills along with Wetland mitigation and the appointment of deer trustee Dr. James Kroll.

“Governor Walker made campaign promises to sportsmen and sportswomen of Wisconsin, “said Scott Maves, Treasurer.” The promises he made he kept which is a rare thing in the world of politics.” It was an accomplishment which no other Governor has made to outdoor enthusiasts and gun owners. The second amendment took on a new meaning in Wisconsin under Governor Scott Walker.

Source (PDF)

There are more clues to how the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) awarded the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin with a half million dollar contract in perpetuity:

As hunting and fishing have become less popular in the state, Wisconsin lawmakers have supported efforts to get young people more interested in outdoorsmanship. So earlier this month, the state Department of Natural Resources quietly decided to offer a $500,000 taxpayer-funded grant to a group that would advocate outdoor sports. The sole applicant and winner of the grant, the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation, has members with ties to national GOP groups, including former lobbyists for the National Rifle Association and Americans for Prosperity. For the record, the NRA donated more than $800,000 to Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign; AFP dropped $3 million.

The DNR announced the grant for hunting groups on its website but didn’t put out a press release about the application, leaving eligible groups unaware of its existence:

Reached last week, Don Kirby, executive director of the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association, said he had no knowledge of the grant.

“Our organization would have been interested to pursue this,” Kirby said. “I’m more than a little disappointed to find out now.”

Luke Hilgemann, the former chief of staff of the Wisconsin Assembly’s majority leader, is listed as an “educator” for United Sportsmen. Hilgemann recently joined the national office of Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers’ lobbying enterprise, after working for the group’s Wisconsin chapter. Also listed in United Sportsmen’s application is Darren LaSorte, a longtime NRA lobbyist in the state who is now based in Texas.

Source

Considered the front man for the Koch Brothers front group United Sportsman of Wisconsin Foundation is John Connors. Here’s some open information:

Connors is listed as the president and owner of J Connors and Company LLC, whose address is listed at 1126 South 70th St S240, Milwaukee WI 53214.

The same building on 70th St. in Milwaukee houses the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity in a suite just down the hall, S219A. The shared building could be considered a coincidence, but for the fact that Connors turns out to have been a longtime staffer and director for AFP. The dots suggesting coordination between the two groups, as we detailed over the weekend, are quickly becoming very well connected.

Connors is described at the website of Americans for Prosperity — a non-profit activist group founded by oil and chemical conglomerate billionaire brother CEO David Koch — variously in 2007 and 2008 as “National Coordinator for Americans for Prosperity”, “AFP-WI staff member” and “National Director, Students for Prosperity”.

Source

As would be typical of criminals aligned with Scott Walker like Tim Russell, Connors has been accused of trying to deceive voters with misleading “Absentee Ballot Application” mailers that got sent to a non-mailing address and other sordid sinister adventures that would make the Koch Brothers giggle with joy.

Also typical of anything stamped with the Walker Stain of Corruption, the United Sportsman of Wisconsin Foundation doesn’t actually know anything about outdoor or hunting training. That’s why they were the only applicant for the $500,000 state contract from the the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) shuffled in quietly by ALEC errand boy Rep. Scott Suder, who is leaving his post for a political appointment as a division administrator for water compliance and consumer affairs at the Public Service Commission in the Walker Administration.

The United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation Inc., a group formed in January with no record of its own in outdoors training, is the only applicant for the scantly noticed two-year grant to promote hunting, fishing and trapping in Wisconsin that is being reviewed Thursday by a special panel.

If the grant is approved, the state could end up paying it every two years to United Sportsmen, which has said in its application that it would use most of the money to pay its staff and consultants.

The carefully crafted grant requirements were unanimously voted into the state budget in May after just seven minutes of discussion by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, which acted on a motion drafted by outgoing Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford) and Rep. Dan LeMahieu (R-Cascade).

Source

Headed by Suder’s former chief of staff, Luke Hilgemann, the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation was “eminently qualified” for the no-bid contract without any proof or credentials. Considering how the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has Walker appointees that are tied to a human waste scandal called “Sewergate”, it’s no surprise Suder will have a new job monitoring water quality and deciding where human shit is a special Wisconsin blend for water.

Since the DNR investigation, dubbed “Sewergate,” was exposed, residents living near the fields have asked that their water be tested for potential contamination. One of the area wells had shown contamination of coliform bacteria when it was tested last fall. Another concern for residents is high levels of nitrates in the drinking water, which can lead to “blue baby syndrome,” a deadly condition for infants.

This month, however, Walker’s DNR appointee, Stepp, told residents that the potential for groundwater contamination was “relatively low” and that the company would not be ordered to pay for private well testing. Stepp is a former Republican Senator and was an outspoken critic of the DNR before her appointment. Walker had chosen her for the position noting that she fit a “chamber-of-commerce mentality” that is part of his vision for regulatory agencies.

Source

There is now further news that Walker intentionally used veto tactics to indeed give the sweetheart deal with the Koch Brothers and the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin.

Gov. Scott Walker’s use of his veto pen on June 30 helped keep alive a $500,000 grant that the politically connected United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation later won — then lost when it was revealed the group misled state officials about its tax status and its president had been cited for illegal bear hunting.

Walker’s budget veto removed the provision calling for federal funds to be used for the two-year grant, leaving intact language stating that the grant would come from state funding.

Walker’s office responded that the veto was not intended to help United Sportsmen.

“This veto has nothing to do with any particular group and is only related to the funding source for the grant,” spokeswoman Jocelyn Webster said. “As I’m sure you all are aware, the provision for this grant was added by the Legislature and not in the governor’s original budget.”

Former Department of Natural Resources Secretary George Meyer said Tuesday that Walker’s veto helped both United Sportsmen and the DNR because the grant likely would have violated strict federal guidelines about how the money could be used.

“The veto of federal funds saved the program,” said Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. “Otherwise the program would’ve been illegal under federal law.”

Source

UPDATE

Now that obvious cronyism and corrupt Republican tricks were exposed, the DNR and Walker decided to cancel the $500,000 secret deal.

Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp on Friday sent a letter informing United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation, Inc. that the agency had canceled a $500,000 grant to the group.

The letter follows a Thursday night decision by Gov. Scott Walker to cancel the grant. United Sportsmen was the only applicant for the Sporting Heritage Grant, a measure slipped into the 2013-’15 state budget.

The decision to cancel the grant came after United Sportsmen misrepresented their tax status to a grant review committee and it was learned the group’s president was cited for a hunting violation in Langlade County in 2005.

Source

Can you blame the Wisconsin Republicans and Scott Walker for wanting to shut down journalism in the state? After all, it would have been so nice if they hadn’t had their hands caught in the cookie jar again leaving taxpayers left to foot the bill.

Walker’s pay-to-play kickback-centered alignment along with Wisconsin Republicans tied to the Koch Brothers via the American Legislative Exchange Council, the proxy front groups like United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation and Americans For Prosperity and the National Rifle Association show their priorities are not with the people of Wisconsin.

Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans got caught this time and will try to sneak more corrupt actions again. They can’t help themselves and surely fear what the Koch Brothers would do to them if they dare stray away from their agenda.