Friday, September 14, 2012

Walker's Budget Bustin' 2011 Travel: Rock Star Costs State Small Fortune

According to an open records request by WisPolitics, Wisconsin Gov. Scott "John Doe" Walker, his staff, and security detail spent more than $70,000 in state money traveling out of state in 2011.  More than half of that, almost $46,000, is for travel and related expense for his security detail, but there are reasons to believe the released documentation is significantly incomplete, perhaps understating taxpayer subsidies being given for Walker to promote himself as a national "rock star"

Identified travel expenses do not cover use of the state airplane. Also curiously absent are costs related to Walker's trips to Super Bowl XLV and the Rose Bowl, even though the documentation provided indicates he attended each and that Walker's security detail accompanied him on to the 2011 Rose Bowl.  So who paid for the omitted costs or is this an indication that the information provided under this open records request is incomplete and understates (perhaps significantly) the amount that taxpayers are subsidizing Walker's "rock star" status?

From WisPolitics (h/t Jason Smathers):
Walker's travel expenses included plane tickets and hotels for the following trips:
  • $7,145 on flights and hotels for Walker, his wife and staffers to attend a three-day NGA conference in Salt Lake City in mid-July. During that time, Walker also attended a meeting and banquet for the Republican Governors Conference.
  • $4,858 on a February 26-28 trip to the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. Tonette Walker attended the conference along with Kimber Leidl and Becky Kikkert, who were representing the governor.
  • $2,265 for flights and hotels for Walker and staffers to attend the BIO International Convention on June 27-28, an annual convention promoting biotechnology efforts across the globe. Walker presented a booth for Wisconsin, seeking to draw in bio tech companies who might create jobs in the state. During his time in D.C., Walker also met with conservative writer George Will.
  • $1,508 for flights and hotels to attend the Education Nation conference hosted by NBC News on Sept. 26. He was accompanied by communications director Chris Schrimpf and deputy chief of staff Ryan Murray.
  • $1,325 for a flight and hotel to attend the CNN taping on Aug. 28. He was accompanied by Schrimpf
  • $1,197 for a trip to Washington D.C. on June 7. Walker met with Sen. Ron Johnson and attended the weekly policy luncheon hosted by the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee.
  • $825 was spent on an April 14 trip to Washington, D.C., where he testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Then-chief of staff Keith Gilkes accompanied Walker.
  • $803 was spent on a flight and hotel for Walker's trip to D.C. on July 27-28. While there, he met with members of Wisconsin's congressional delegation, appeared on a radio show and made a trip to visit wounded soldiers at Bethesda Naval Hospital.
  • $561 for a flight to New York to meet with several bond rating agencies. While Walker's calendar notes that he went to the Benjamin hotel that night and left the next morning, there is no charge listed for the hotel.
Of the $45,942 in out-of-state travel expenses for Walker's security detail, which includes food, gas, rental cars, airfare and hotels but not salaries or overtime, the only documentation provided identifies (from WisPolitic):
The $45,942 in out-of-state travel expenses for Walker's security detail was part of an overall $272,235 spent on in-state and out-of-state travel in 2011 and part of December 2010.

Those numbers include food, gas, rental cars, airfare and hotels but do not include any salaries or overtime.

The $45,942 covers a time period from July 2011 through the end of the year. DOA records also include more than $43,000 in credit card charges from December 2010 through June 2011. There may be more expenses for out-of-state travel in those charges, but an itemized breakdown wasn't included in invoices covering the six months from December 2010 through June 2011.

Without a breakdown of the $43,058 in credit card charges during that period, it's impossible to know whether they were attributable to in-state or out-of-state costs. During that time, Walker took at least eight trips out of the state with a security detail, including four trips on the state plane to St. Paul, Minn.
Obtaining this information took a great deal of time -- DOA was less-than-cooperative.  When WisPolitics and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel made their initial request, the Department of Administration initially requested a huge down-payment on this, approaching $1,000, indicating that there could additional charges.  VOICES joined the request later and then all three parties were informed that the required down-payment would about 1/3 of the original figure, though still subject to additional charges.

The initial deposit requested by DOA appears to have been excessively high and DOA was not cooperative.  WiscPolitics and MJS paid the total fees assessed (lower than initially demanded) to get the information in this report released.

No comments: