As Scott Walker heads to the Republican National Convention, he’s telling the media “case closed” on a shady bond deal he doesn’t want the public to know about.
In 2003 Walker’s buddy Nick Hurtgen, the embattled Vice-President of the Chicago investment firm Bears-Stearns, held an Illinois fundraiser for Walker. At the time, Bears-Stearns was bidding on a contract to restructure the County’s debt. Hurtgen helped Walker raise $25,000, but taxpayers got stuck with a extra $300,000 bill after Bears-Stearns was given the contract under a veil of secrecy.
Milwaukee County requested that vendors bid on the contract to restructure the debt. The county publishes the set criteria indicating what is to be done, and what a vendor can charge for. This makes it so contract evaluators are comparing apples to apples when they make their selection. Bears-Stearns submitted a bid with extra administrative fees – a faux pas that even the County’s own Audit Department said should have automatically disqualified them from being considered. But it helps to have friends on the inside.
Linda Seymer, Walker’s department head in charge of the debt restructuring, is friends with Hurtgen. Seymer sought “advice” from Hurtgen on raising money for the Walker campaign from Hurgen’s Illinois associates.
Meanwhile, the County board passed a change in the ethics rules that said you're not allowed to solicit anyone who does business with Milwaukee County. Walker then violated this ordinance by soliciting Bears-Stearns dollars.
Thinking he would get away with it if he didn’t show a direct connection to Hurtgen, Walker accepted a large campaign donation from the wife of Nick Hurtgen. But it doesn’t end there. In his campaign finance report, Walker lists her address as living in Wisconsin. Walker knows better, but in politics appearances can be everything. As it turns out, she claims that she has family living in Wisconsin as if the public is to believe that the address on her check (which candidates typically use on their campaign statements) is a Wisconsin residence.
In the end, Bears-Stearns was awarded the bid.
The actions of the bid awarding committee were bizarre to say the least. It was as if an occult hand had controlled the decision making process. Committee members are supposed to rank bidders on several different categories. It is then the responsibility of the chairman of the committee to collect the score sheets and maintain them for public record. When the Journal-Sentinel requested the score sheets, Walker stalled for over a month. Finally, the Journal-Sentinel broke the story (the same one I broke 13 months earlier in The Press). A day later Walker announced that the documents had been found and were given to the Journal-Sentinel. Despite a month having passed, Walker then went on the Charlie Sykes show and said the Journal-Sentinel had just recently requested the info and he complied.
What was turned over was only one of the Bears-Stearns score sheets from the five member committee and two score sheets from the other bidders. These score sheets were simply written on scratch paper and had no dates, times and were not on official county letterhead. In fact, these could have easily been made up by the Walker administration the night before he made his pronouncement “case closed”.
In the single scorecard that was found which analyzed the Bears-Stearns bid, the Illinois company lost on almost every category, yet they still were awarded the contract.
Even from the scant and unreliable information that Walker’s team came up with, it would have been illegal for them to award the contract to Bears-Stearns since Wisconsin law requires them to give the contract to the lowest reasonable and responsible bidder.
Instead, what they did was a bit like an employer publicizing a job opening when they already know who they want for the position. That instance is a case of going through the motions to maintain an appearance of impartiality, but when government does it with taxpayer dollars, it is illegal. Walker knows this, but he did it anyway.
Taxpayers ended up getting stuck with an extra bill of more than $300,000 yet Walker didn’t mind trifling with the deal since his campaign could leverage the contract to net $25,000 in Bears-Stearns connected campaign contributions.
To date, four of the five Bears-Stearns evaluation sheets are still missing. The one that has been turned over to the media isn’t signed or dated. For all practical purposes, it could have easily been manufactured after the Journal-Sentinel ran the story.
By accepting donations from a firm bidding on business with Milwaukee County, Walker violated County ethics rules at nearly the same time as he was signing them into law.
His stonewalling of the Journal-Sentinel, followed by his announcement that he complied quickly with their request for information shows a pattern of deception. By using the contact as an opportunity to solicit campaign contributions, while at the same time signing a County Board resolution outlawing the same practice, Walker displayed a bravado that shows that he believes he is above the law.
Milwaukee County residents are tired of scandals, but since it is a conservative Republican who has done the wrongdoing, Walker’s scandalous behavior is sure to be buried by pro-Republican talk radio show hosts like Charlie Sykes and Mark Belling. Walker will probably get his way and the mainstream media will likely let him off the hook with his announcement “case closed”.
Since this story was originally
published, we have received several emails from an anonymous
source. Perhaps it is Hurtgen or perhaps just one of his
admirers, but KkTtt3@aol.com,
whoever he or she is, is adamant that Hurtgen was never
indicted. Regardless, the point of this article was never an
exclusive look at Hurtgen, but rather the Walker-Bears Stearns
scandal. Despite these problems, it does merit another look at the
shady business dealings of Hurtgen and a quick google of Hurtgen
yields the following link. Therefore, we leave it up to the
reader to make up their own mind as to whether or not the ethical
lapses of Mr. Hurtgen are germane to the story.
... The managing director of Bear Stearns'
Chicago office, Nick Hurtgen, resigned
shortly after the
alleged “pay to play” scheme was made public. ...
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