Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Closer Look Behind Scott Walker's First TV Ad

It is common knowledge that Walker felt that the Republican nomination for governor was his by the right that it simply was his turn. Unfortunately for Walker, Mark Neumann must not have gotten that memo and is also vying for the Republican nomination. Neumann presents a real threat to Walker's chances both because Neumann has a considerable amount of personal wealth that he can dump into his campaign and because Walker's track record as Milwaukee County Executive is not very stellar and getting worse by the day.

Neumann has been putting the pressure on Walker a lot in the last month or so. Neumann has been using his considerable wealth by buying a lot of TV ad time around the state and is about to launch his third commercial later this week.

In response, Walker is now spending some of that pay-for-play loot he has garnered and is running his first ad. At the risk of forever ruining this fine site of mine, I will post it here:

Overall, it is an admittedly positive ad, which is refreshingly surprising considering the constant barrage negativity and smearing that has come from his campaign thus far.

JSOnline has already covered the commercial and had this to say, with a delicious but telling twist which I have emphasized for you:

Walker's ad, shot in his Wauwatosa home, says he returned $370,000 to taxpayers over eight years. It casts him as frugal and directs voters to, a site that touts his fiscal tightness by mentioning he packs his own lunch every day.

The full pay for Walker's job is $129,611 a year. He returned $60,000 annually in the years following his 2002 election, but scaled that back to $10,000 a year after his April 2008 re-election - a change that prompted criticism Wednesday from Mike Tate, chairman of the state Democratic Party.

"Scott Walker promised to give back 47 percent of his pay and then broke that promise in each of the last two years," Tate said in a statement. "He also makes noises about working for the people who eat their lunches out of brown bags, while the tax cuts he proposes would benefit only the richest one percent of Wisconsinites."

Walker's ad does not mention he's running for governor. Keith Gilkes, Walker's campaign manager, said voters will be well aware of what office he is running for by fall.

You would think with all the people that Walker has shipped in from all over the country to help run his campaign, he would have at least mentioned what he was running for. Maybe he isn't running anymore but just wanted people to know he is a cheapskate (except when it comes to his home and his swimming pool).

While that is a humorous diversion, that is not what raised a red flag for me. What did set off the alarms was the whole premise of the commercial. Namely, the claim that Walker gave back all that money to Milwaukee County.

To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever bothered to actually check to see if Walker is really returning the money. But for the sake of argument, let us say he has done as he claims (which in itself would be a rarity).

That still leaves two issues.

One, it does not jive with what Walker had promised to do. When he originally ran for county executive, Walker promised to cut his salary:
Voluntarily reduce own salary to $78,850, within 30 days
And in case you might think that this was just the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's interpretation of his promise, I was able to get a screencap of Walker's old campaign web site, via the Wayback Machine:

Obviously, since Walker's salary is still $129,611, he has not reduced his salary.

Now, I can just hear the Walker apologists yammering that he gave the money back, so it doesn't really matter that he didn't keep his promise. But they would be wrong.

It matters because of the County's pension system.

Throughout the State of Wisconsin, there is an agreement that if a person transfers from one government body to another, their time served in the first government counts for purposes of time of public service. For example, if a person worked for Washington County for ten years and then took a job in Milwaukee County, those ten years would count towards figuring that person's pension. The same goes for people changing levels of government, such as the state to a county. I also made a few quick calls tonight and was able to confirm that it also applies to elected officials.

So technically, Walker became eligible for Milwaukee County's pension the minute he took office in 2002. He is also eligible for the 2% rate, so that if Walker were to retire before the end of the 2010, his pension would be 2% times 17 years times his salary, or roughly $44,200 a year. (And I won't even get into the nagging question of whether Walker ever signed a legally binding pension waiver. I don't even want to think about that right now.)

Compare that to the average county worker, who Walker loves to vilify and continuously hammer over the same pension system that he is going to be so richly rewarded by. According to a recent audit done by the County, 70% of current county retirees are receiving less than $23,000 a year, and the average pension for a worker who served 30 years with Milwaukee County is $28,000.

No wonder Walker wasn't too concerned about meeting another one of his campaign promises. Namely, the one where he promised to fix the pension mess that got him swept into office.

There is one thing I would just love to see Walker do. Since he is so willing to stick Milwaukee County workers and elected officials with a reduced pension multiplier, will he make a promise to do the same thing with the state's pension system, which is also currently at 2%? Because if he doesn't think the same thing should happen at the state level, it does make it seem that all of his talk of frugality is nothing more than his usual empty campaign rhetoric.

And wouldn't it be be fun to see how all of the elected officials from all over the state who have already endorsed him react to that campaign promise?


  1. There are big problems with the ad. At the very least, it is rather disingenuous. He’s claiming to fight against something (the cost of big government) he’s given into (raising his own salary by 72%). I think that Scott Walker started out his time as Milwaukee County Executive with the right intentions. Milwaukee County was a big mess. However, fixing the problems in Milwaukee County have been put on the back burner ever since Walker decided he wanted to become governor. Now, it’s a matter of putting bandages over Milwaukee County’s problems, in hopes that they won’t become undone until after Walker becomes governor. Unfortunately, I fear what kind of governor Scott Walker will make. Wisconsin’s problems are huge. We want a straight shooter for governor, not someone who uses gimmicks to govern AND campaign.

  2. Is there anything in your post that is actually correct?

  3. What is your specific question?

  4. Aaron,

    I stand by everything I've written. If I am wrong, prove it.

  5. I don't think it has anything to do with how much money he gave back. It's a matter of what he promised the voters, what he did, and how he's portraying what he did on a campaign advertisement. All of you Walker spinksters think you're brilliant with your elaborate, gymnatics style reasoning, which is exactly why there's enough suspicion of career politicians.

  6. Pathetic cries...

    He did what he said he would do, in the first 30 days...his salary was cut, he paid the difference. Not only that he GAVE more than all democrats combined on the county payroll and it is still not enough for the blood in the water keyboard trolls.

    This says much of those that have suspicions...

  7. That's a good point. Those who don't give back shouldn't be saying anything.

  8. I agree with Arod. We should all be silent about Scott Walker's faults. He's the annointed Republican candidate, we should just go along with it. In fact, I would recommend that if any Republican is opposed to Walker, they should be put on a list.

  9. His voluntarily giving back part of his salary. Come to think of it, no democrats have made the same fault; none gave back any of theirs.

  10. First, he did not do what he said he would do. His salary actually increased over the time that he was county exec.

    Seconly, Anonymous 4:08, you are wrong, and I will be posting how wrong you were when I get to it.

  11. You have data on others who gave back part of their salary? Did you also complain of them not giving enough...

  12. Do you have data on anyone else making the promise to cut their salary but didn't?

  13. You are running in circles chasing your tail. He gave part of salary back, voluntarily, and you have a problem with that? Yet you have no local dem who did the same thing and you are ok with it. Decide for yourself what bothers you most..someone that does something he says or does nothing at all.

  14. Even with the giveback, he was making more money than he was in the state legislature. He also claimed the give back as a charitable donation and got a tax break on it, so he didn't lose much that way either.

    But the truth comes down to the simple fact that he did not follow through on his promise. In fact his salary is higher now than it was when he took office, and he did give himself that $50,000 raise two years ago, so even his attempt at looking like he was keeping his promise didn't hold.

    Sorry, but he lied. That's all there is to it.

  15. And if he accepted the salary, and gave it back as a charitable contribution, he got the tax cut, but the whole salary continues to be calculated in HIS pension amount.

  16. Your still flailing in circles Capper. If he claimed the money as a donation, as you say, then the act of not giving it away is the furthest thing from a raise.

    Still waiting for a comparable local dem politician to step to the plate and contribute the same income back.

    Question: Next year when Obama does not donate 1.4 million, like he did this year, will you say he gave himself a raise?

  17. It does not matter who else did or didn't do what. The question is are you OK with Walker lying and taking all that money for himself?

  18. What does matter is the truth, not your version of it. You have already conceded he claimed his payments as a charitable donation. A salary increase, as you contend, is an increase in income not a decrease in donations. You can't have it both ways unless you are chasing your tail.

    If it doesn't matter who did or didn't do what you wouldn't be posting your version of a perception on walker's finances. A blogger with integrity would hold all politicians to the same standard...

  19. Okay, so the blogger here is whining because he followed through on giving back $370,000 to the taxpayers, but this is a problem because 1)He got to claim it as a charitable donation (you do get that his deductions will be nowhere near accounting for the $370,000, right?) and, 2) although he voluntarily reduced his salary by $60,000 in the first 30 days of his campaign as promised, you claim he didn't really, because the salary of Milwaukee County Executive is, on the books, still higher. Even though he has never collected that amount. Oh, and 3) His pension is still based on the original salary.

    So he gave back $370,000, but that's not good enough for you, even though no other politician in the state comes even close to that kind of selflessness. Which is holding Walker to a standard that is far higher than what you expect from his democratic opponent. Your hypocrisy is boundless.

  20. The fact is, like all of his other promises, Walker broke this one. He was, and is, a big fat liar.

  21. Not to mention the fact that he found it no longer convenient because he wanted to buy a big house with a big pool, while people were starving because he didn't want to properly staff the income maintenance center is unforgivable.

  22. Comparing a regular worker to one of the highest positions in the city on what their
    pension is rather stupid..

    That's like saying the 3rd in command of Target should get same pension as the head register clerk

    Stop nit picking