Tuesday, September 10, 2013

United Sportsmen scandal deepening

Jeez, you peel the skin off of the "United Sportsmen of Wisconsin" onion, and the stench is overwhelming. Gov Walker's role is funneling the now-revoked $500,000 grant to United Sportsmen is more direct than we knew as well.

Dee Hall and Mary Spicuzza of the Wisconsin State Journal have that story today.
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.
You can even go to the last 2 pages of the Governor's veto message and see it yourself. (note: I found this link through DOA site, after Walker's website scrubbed the veto message) Walker says he made the veto because he felt the federal Wildlife Restoration Act and Sport Fish Restoration Act would not be the places that these activities should be funded from.

As someone who has worked in the grant administration business, I can also tell you another possible reason for that veto- using state dollars can be a way around federal oversight. You see, when you have a federal grant, you generally need to show that this grant was distributed to a deserving entity and that this decision was done competitively and fairly. You also need to tell the feds what you're doing with the grant, and the feds then have the ability to look into you and the organizations that are carrying out the grant's activities. There also may be extra auditing and reporting duties that could set off red flags if the feds feel the funds are going to the wrong things.

When you devolve this into a grant to be administered by the state Department of Natural Resources, a lot of these requirements don't have to be in place, (although it can be if the state wants). And in the not too distant past, you could have civil servants with collective bargaining rights being the ones determining the grant, and therefore not be likely to be giving away political favors since they wouldn't owe any. However, if you have a DNR Secretary that's a former homebuilder a high school education and a "Chamber of Commerce" mentality" and whose organization previously looked the other way when GOP contributors dumped human waste all around Oconomowoc., there are fewer barriers to get around when it comes to throwing taxpayer money to a Koch electioneering group.

It's also hilarious to hear Walker spokesperson Jocelyn Webster try to blame the Legislature for inserting the provision. That kinds falls flat when you realize Walker TOOK THE ACTION TO MAKE THE VETO, so his office clearly knew what this was. If Walker's office was truly blindsided by this and missed this provision, there would have been no action taken, and we'd be changing a federal grant, not a state one.

Scotty and his handlers knew exactly what they were doing when they changed this to a state grant- they were making it easier to funnel money to his backers. This thing has real LEGS, folks, and you can bet United Sportsmen of Wisconsin aren't the only groups who have gotten taxpayer dollars after this administration reduced oversight of the funds.

By the way, we're continuing to find out more about United Sportsmen of Wisconsin....and less in some instances. The Journal-Sentinel and Jason Stein's and Patrick Marley's continued investigation into the group shows it to be even more shady than we even thought.
In statements with a donor in 2011, United Sportsmen represented itself as a nonprofit. But on Friday, the group said in a statement that it was a for-profit entity.

Either way, the group doesn't show up as having filed a Wisconsin income tax return — a basic step for both companies and charities that a half-dozen experts on accounting and tax law told the Journal Sentinel that United Sportsmen likely should have done.
You know, when you're changing your story, chances are quite high that you're not an ethical outfit. But I suppose when you're a Koch front group whose main members are former staffers of outgoing Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder, a lack of ethics seems to go with the territory (heck, it probably helps!)

And the fact that United Sportsmen of Wisconsin hasn't filed taxes is kind of a big deal, because in order to dodge filing taxes, United Sportsmen of Wisconsin, has to be a 501 (c) (4) "social welfare" organization, and file appropriately. And the IRS says that in order for it to be a social welfare organization, it has to be working for more individuals beyond WisGOP politicians.
To be operated exclusively to promote social welfare, an organization must operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community (such as by bringing about civic betterment and social improvements). For example, an organization that restricts the use of its facilities to employees of selected corporations and their guests is primarily benefiting a private group rather than the community and, therefore, does not qualify as a section 501(c)(4) organization....An organization is not operated primarily for the promotion of social welfare if its primary activity is operating a social club for the benefit, pleasure or recreation of its members, or is carrying on a business with the general public in a manner similar to organizations operated for profit .

Seeking legislation germane to the organization's programs is a permissible means of attaining social welfare purposes. Thus, a section 501(c)(4) social welfare organization may further its exempt purposes through lobbying as its primary activity without jeopardizing its exempt status. An organization that has lost its section 501(c)(3) status due to substantial attempts to influence legislation may not thereafter qualify as a section 501(c)(4) organization. In addition, a section 501(c)(4) organization that engages in lobbying may be required to either provide notice to its members regarding the percentage of dues paid that are applicable to lobbying activities or pay a proxy tax. For more information, see Lobbying Issues .

The promotion of social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. However, a section 501(c)(4) social welfare organization may engage in some political activities, so long as that is not its primary activity.
Doesn't really sound like United Sportsmen were following those rules, were they? It sort of begs this question.

I think it's about time we find out what United Sportsmen of Wisconsin REALLY does, and more impotantly, who's paying for them to do it. Especially now that they can't use $500,000 from the State of Wisconsin, like Scott Walker's veto pen would have allowed them to do until they got exposed.

P.S. - An astute reader pointed out in the comments section that Governor Walker's webpage has now scrubbed the veto message, so I used the DOA site to restore the link. Innnnnn-teresting.


  1. Oops , scoots removed the link ... a la 1984


    1. That's a public document, and could be illegal. Nice catch, Tom