Common Cause and Center for Media and Democracy Seek Public Records on Wisconsin Gov. Walker’s Trip to Koch Retreat

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  • Dale Eisman

Watchdog organizations Common Cause and the Center for Media and Democracy jointly filed a public records request today seeking details of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s trip to a fundraising retreat hosted by billionaire industrialist mega-donors Charles and David Koch in Palm Springs, California.

The request seeks details on who paid Gov. Walker’s travel expenses, and recent communications between the governor’s office and the Kochs’ secretive political apparatus, which has announced plans to spend $889 million in advance of the 2016 elections. While reporters were permitted to attend portions of the event, the governor spoke at a private session with potential donors. Yesterday, three days after the meeting,  Gov. Walker announced he was forming a new fundraising committee ahead of his potential 2016 presidential campaign.

“The public has a right to know if private donors or Wisconsin taxpayers are paying for Gov. Walker’s trip to this secret fundraising conference, just as they have a right to know who Gov. Walker is speaking to at events like these,” said Arn Pearson, Vice President of Policy and Litigation at Common Cause.

Brendan Fischer, General Counsel of the Madison-based Center for Media and Democracy, said: “The people of Wisconsin should know how their newly-reelected governor is spending his time, and whether he is making promises to the Kochs or other big political spenders who helped get him elected to office.”

Gov. Walker is one of four potential Republican presidential candidates who attended the retreat. U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Marco Rubio of Florida also took part.  As members of the Senate, Cruz, Paul, and Rubio are exempt from federal and state public records laws and the Freedom of Information Act; Common Cause and the Center for Media and Democracy have sent letters to the three senators’ offices asking that they voluntarily release records from the trip.

The Koch network’s closed-door fundraising and policy meeting coincided with the 5th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC that has allowed corporations and special interest groups to spend unlimited amounts of money in federal and state elections.

These types of private meetings between possible presidential candidates and “independent” political spenders create opportunities for coordination. Gov. Walker has faced an investigation of illegal coordination between his campaign committee and several outside groups, including the Koch-funded Wisconsin Club for Growth. As a consequence, some Republican legislators are considering proposals to make the state’s nonpartisan Government Accountability Board a partisan entity.