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Through The Looking Glass, Or Looking Deeper Into Scott Walker’s Campaign Finance Report

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on July 27, 2009

Last week, I discovered some oddities about Scott Walker’s recently released campaign financial report. I wasn’t the only one, as one of the oddities, his campaign manager apparently not getting paid by the campaign, was covered by Cory Liebmann at Eye on Wisconsin.

As bad as those things seemed though, they weren’t nearly all there was as far as peculiarities go.

As Rob at Walker’s Point blogsite points out, (plus being kind enough to download the entire report onto Scribs), one peculiarity is the fact that the Journal Broadcast Group is listed on page 460 as giving an expense refund of nearly $15,000 to the campaign. What makes it so odd is that in the report there is no listing of having paid the Journal Broadcast Group anything. Nor is there anything listed in the previous report.

I find it extremely hard to believe that the JBG held on to $15,000 for over a year without paying it back, or the campaign had not asked for it in that long. Especially considering that Walker is a distant third in the money race.

So where did that money come from? When and for what purpose did the campaign supposedly give it to JBG? Or is it something altogether different?

But there’s more, gentle reader. With Walker, there always seems to be more.

As I was looking at the JBG mystery, I came across another peculiarity.

Michael Grebe, who Walker proudly announced earlier this year as his campaign chairman, gave Walker’s campaign $5,000 on June 29, 2009 (page 381 on Walker’ report for those that are following). Interestingly, on the very next day, June 30, is when it was reported that Walker named Grebe his campaign chair.

This is where it gets really odd. And very, very convoluted.

Grebe is the CEO of the Bradley Foundation. He is also on the advisory committee for the Metro Milwaukee Association of Commerce and a Co-Chair of the Milwaukee 7.

Interestingly, Steven Smith is on the MMAC board as well as a member of the Milwaukee 7 board. Steven Smith is also the Chairman/CEO of Journal Communications (h/t to Tom Foley). Journal Communications is the parent company for Journal Broadcasting Group.

Also worth noting at this point is the fact that Scott Walker is part of the MMAC and Milwaukee 7.

So, thus far, we know that Walker, Smith and Grebe already have tight relationships, and all three serve on at least two boards together. Grebe gives Walker a huge contribution, and is suddenly the campaign chair. On top of that, Smith, head of the largest paper in southeast Wisconsin, has one of his subsidiary groups give Walker’s campaign an inexplicable campaign expense refund.

But there is still more.

As mentioned before, Grebe is the top banana at the Bradley Foundation. Also working at the Bradley Foundation is Janet Riordan, serving as their Director of Community Programs. Riordan is also Charlie Sykes’ current wife.

It was recently reported on a different story, that Sykes, through his wife and other connections, is also pretty tight with Grebe and the Bradley foundation:

McBride, who had a talk show on WTMJ-AM (620), suggested that the chief could count on Sykes. Journal Communications owns both WTMJ and the Journal Sentinel.

“Sykes will probably never turn on you, not with his wife’s job, and not with the other ties he has to Bradley,” she wrote. “If I was a betting person, I’d say that Sykes came up with the idea to bring (George) Kelling here in the first place.”

Sykes’ wife, Janet Riordan, works for the conservative Bradley Foundation. That group paid Kelling and another consultant to oversee the search for a new MPD chief two years ago. Sykes did not return a message Friday.

Well, that certainly explains why Sykes has been repeatedly bemoaning the fact that Mark Neumann has entered the gubernatorial race, and has kept whining that Neumann should have ran against U.S. Senator Feingold again.

And Smith’s role at Journal Communications would only emphasize Sykes’ push for Walker, not to mention the excessively favorable reporting and editorials coming from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

It is also rather frightening to consider how much of the TV stations, radio stations and newspapers that Journal Communications own in this state. Will Neumann or Doyle or any of Walker’s critics get any fair coverage? It seems unlikely.

Now, for all I know, all of this, including that mysterious expense refund, might be logically explained. However, the deeper one looks at what is going on behind the scenes, it seems more like a machination so devilish that Niccolo Machiavelli would be jealous. At the very best, it is a perfect example of how bad the “old boys network” can get.

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