Last week, a man impersonating billionaire Republican donor David Koch asked Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisc.), "Now what else could we do for you down there?" After taking tens of thousands of dollars in Koch-related donations for his election, and creating a budget filled with corporate special interest carve outs, it would seem to make more sense if Walker asked David Koch, "what else can Wisconsin do for you?"
And that got me thinking. If he’ll spend 20 minutes shooting the breeze with a billionaire but he won't spend two minutes negotiating with Senate Democrats or unions, who else would Gov. Walker take a call from?
Certainly not nurses, or teachers, or cops, or firefighters standing in solidarity together against the political attack against the rights of workers.
But maybe some of these folks:
- He'd probably take a call from Diane Hendricks. She's the head of Wisconsin-based ABC Supply Company, and personally worth $2.1 billion, according to Forbes magazine. That ranks her as the third wealthiest person in the state. Perhaps he'd take her call because she donated $10,500 to Walker's 2010 run for governor, and another $10,000 to the Wisconsin Republican Party, according to data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
- Wisconsin's richest billionaire, Menard's Inc. CEO John Menard Jr., would also probably get through. The flinty CEO gave Walker $2,000 last year, and is also virulently anti-union. The 71 year-old Menard, who has a net worth of $5.2 billion, reportedly threatens store managers at his home improvement chain with 60 percent pay cuts if a store's employees organized a union. According to Good Jobs First, Menard's isn't opposed to government-funded programs, though, having received taxpayer-funded loans and credits worth $300,000 across the Midwest.
- Herbert Kohler Jr. also gave $2,000 to Walker's campaign. He probably knows how to get his calls returned. The plumbing fixture CEO has let the political money flow all over the country, and has given hundreds of thousands to GOP candidates and state and national political committees. And as Walker prepares pink slips for state workers, Kohler can probably offer advice: the company lost 487 jobs in Wisconsin in 2006, chalked up to imbalanced trade policies with China, according to a trade adjustment assistance database maintained by Public Citizen.
- Walker would probably also answer a call from Donald Schneider, who is the now-retired CEO of Schneider National, a trucking company. Though Schneider, worth $2.5 billion, didn't himself give political money to the governor, four family members and Schneider National employees gave more than $1,000 each. The trucking company is almost exclusively non-union, and its employees appear to give exclusively to Republicans. Schneider National isn't opposed to government spending per se, though. According to Good Jobs First, the company has received nearly $1 million in tax credits and rebates from the State of Illinois.
- Any one of the Johnson clan from Racine, Wisconsin - four family members each with a net worth of $2 billion, according to Forbes - would probably be able to get through to the Governor. The family, which runs chemical manufacturer S.C. Johnson is comprised of reliable Republican donors to candidates and political committees around the country. Fisk Johnson, current Chairman and CEO of the family business, gave Walker $1,000 in 2010.
Walker may or may not have received calls from these billionaires, but that's not the point. Instead of discussing placing troublemakers at rallies, running ads in swing areas, or crushing the unions with David Koch, Walker should be proactively calling these billionaires and other Wisconsin corporate leaders to ask them to share in the sacrifice to repair the state budget. To balance the budget on the backs of workers alone is wrong.
Just these eight Wisconsin billionaires - whose net worth is collectively $19.8 billion - could fill the $137 million budget gap this year with less than seven tenths of one percent of their net worth.
Think about that for a minute. Would any of these billionaires even miss seven tenths of one percent of their net worth?
Well, the real question here is not whether eight billionaires could do it. The question is whether Walker would ask them to give anything--besides contributions to his own campaign, that is. If Walker won't ask them, perhaps the citizens of Wisconsin should.