Media Ignores Scott Walker's Dark Money Controversy

After Months Of Scandalizing Clinton Foundation Donations, Press Silent On Walker's Reported Pay-For-Play

The press has almost entirely ignored the revelation that after the “richest man in Wisconsin” made secret donations benefitting Republican Governor Scott Walker, his company received special tax credits for that same donor's company.

By contrast, the media have frequently invoked donations to the Clinton Foundation in their coverage of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, baselessly suggesting that those donations create conflicts of interest.

Yahoo News reported March 23 that John Menard Jr., the billionaire owner of a chain of hardware stores in the Midwest, donated over $1.5 million to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which “pledged to keep its donors secret.” Walker helped generate large, undisclosed donations for the group, according to records unveiled as part of a criminal investigation into whether the interactions of such groups with Walker's campaign committee violated state campaign finance laws. The Club defended Walker in the 2012 recall election, where he prevailed.

Since then, Menard's company “has been awarded up to $1.8 million in special tax credits from a state economic development corporation that Walker chairs, according to state records.” Walker appointees also scaled back enforcement actions by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, “a top Menard priority.”

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow gave a detailed account of the story on her March 24 broadcast:

Yet the pay-to-play allegations swirling around Walker, a possible Republican presidential candidate, have been widely ignored by others in the media.

The story hasn't been covered on the three major broadcast networks, CNN, or Fox News, according to a search of Nexis and Media Matters' video archives. The Rachel Maddow Show appears to be MSNBC's only mention of the story. Besides a reprint of an Associated Press article noting a denial of wrongdoing from the Walker administration, the New York Times hasn't covered the story. And the only references from The Washington Post are in a post on the progressive Plum Line blog and the same AP story the Times reprinted.

By contrast, the media has repeatedly raised the specter of “ethical concerns” over donations to the Clinton Foundation by foreign governments and individuals, among others. They have persisted with this coverage despite the clear indications from Hillary Clinton's record as secretary of state that the donations did not influence her politically and the reality that the donations went to a global charity, not a fund benefiting her election.