Walker defends motorcycle promotional trip

    For the seventh consecutive year, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker will take his Harley on a trip around the state to promote Milwaukee County as a tourist destination.
    And for the seventh consecutive year, Walker’s critics will chide him for using the trip to campaign for governor while on the county’s dime.
    Walker will lead a group of more than 100 motorcycle riders on the 1700-mile, six-day, five-state tour that will wind throughout Wisconsin, as well as into Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota, stopping in more than 35 communities.
    Walker says he will promote area attractions including: Milwaukee County’s parks, golf courses, and water parks; the Milwaukee County Zoo’s tiger cubs, special Adventure Dinosaur! exhibit and 2200 animals; Summerfest and the ethnic festivals on the lakefront; the Milwaukee Public Museum; Miller Park and the Milwaukee Brewers; the Wisconsin State Fair; the Harley-Davidson Museum; the Calatrava-designed Milwaukee Art Museum; and General Mitchell International Airport.
    Of note is the fact that AirTran Airways and Visit Milwaukee will “present” Walker’s ride this year, offsetting any taxpayer-related expenses. According to an estimate calculated by Visit Milwaukee, the media generated by last year’s ride for Milwaukee area tourism was valued at $183,000.
    Promoting Milwaukee County certainly falls within the mission and purview of Visit Milwaukee.
    However, Sam Roecker of the Wisconsin Democratic Party of Wisconsin, questioned the appropriateness of AirTran sponsoring an event by a publicly elected official.
    “After years of traveling on the taxpayers dime, your staff approached AirTran to chip in $2,800 for your thinly-veiled campaign tour, while AirTran was requesting space from the County Board at General Mitchell International Airport,” Roecker asked of Walker, who is a Republican candidate for governor. “Can you explain how soliciting a company which has major business pending before the County Board doesn’t raise serious doubts that you created a conflict of interest?”
    Mike Tate, chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said, "Scott Walker refuses to follow the law and release records showing the back room deals that surround his annual dog-and-pony show around the state which, this year more than ever, underscores how these things were taxpayer- and corporate-funded campaign junkets to begin with."
    In response to the Democratic allegations, Fran McLaughlin, Walker’s director of communications, replied, “This is a ridiculous and inaccurate accusation. Visit Milwaukee suggested the ride as a possible place for AirTran to be involved and get outreach throughout the state. They contacted us and we accepted. They have chosen a number of community organizations and events to sponsor (Marquette University, Habitat for Humanity, etc.) to increase their name recognition in our market. The county Ethics Board cleared AirTran’s support of the ride in 2009 and again in 2010. The State GAB (Government Accountability Board) wrote that they have no oversight of the ride as it is an official county event. Milwaukee County actively pursues airlines, and it is in our best interest that AirTran is at GMIA and expanding. There is no logic in saying AirTran expects something in return. Our office responds to all open records requests, and I am not aware of any open records request on this subject. The DPW did approach the GAB on this last year and received a letter back stating they did not have jurisdiction over the county executive’s ride.”
    A spokesman for Walker’s Republican primary opponent, Mark Neumann, declined to comment about Walker’s journey.

    – BizTimes Milwaukee

    Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

    Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

    No posts to display