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Pay for Play or an outright sale?

Walker turns on the red light for Milwaukee County

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker recently held a huge fundraiser in Chicago. Courthouse insiders point out that the event was either organized or well attended by Chicago investment banking and brokerage firm Bear Stearns. Bear Stearns reportedly made a cool $363,000 for orchestrating the refinancing of the County's debt.

Normally bond issues are awarded by competitive bid. However in this instance, the Walker administration didn't open up the bidding to other firms, leading to more than a few eyebrows being raised. The buzz is that Walker is now shaking down the same Chicago crowd that Tommy Thompson used to rely on.

Former Governor Thompson’s Department of Administration chief Jim Klauser was the former boss of then-lackey, now-Bear Stearns Executive “Nick” Hurtgen. Hurtgen has since worked with the State to bring tons of Wisconsin taxpayer cash to the Chicago company.

Meanwhile, Klauser is set to be appointed by Walker to the Milwaukee County Research Park board this week. 

The above article was originally published in my column in The Press, a news and arts monthly, in June 2003.  Thirteen months later, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel began to expose these same improprieties.

Related Coverage

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, July 15, 2004
Answers sought on Bond Deal
Federal and state authorities quickly launched a joint criminal investigation Thursday into the cloudy circumstances surrounding the selection of Bear Stearns as underwriter on a $100 million Milwaukee County bond deal.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, July 15, 2004
Editorial: Shadow over County. again
It was a complicated $100 million refinancing deal, and the key people involved, including County Executive Scott Walker, say everything was on the up and up. Maybe so. But the absence of virtually all of the records regarding why Bear Stearns & Co. Inc., a major investment banking firm, was chosen to underwrite the deal last year has properly cast a shadow over county government.

Guest Columnist Robert Miranda, July 19, 2004
Presto! County Finds Bond Papers
Scott Walker, Milwaukee County executive, is under some intense scrutiny brought on by Milwaukee’s only daily newspaper...Indeed, the rotten smell at the county is becoming even more pungent as the story continues to develop. Unfortunately for Walker, some misstatements he made on WTMJ-AM's Charles Sykes show and a press release he issued is having some impact on his credibility...A request for records was made in June by MJS. Walker, after it was reported that the documents were missing, said on the Charlie Sykes radio show that the request for the documents in question was made more recent than that -- a statement Walker later had to retract.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, July 14, 2004
Bond deal records missing - Choice explanations murky; officials discount firm's links to Walker
Milwaukee County officials said Wednesday that they are unable to document how a major investment banking firm with political connections to County Executive Scott Walker was awarded a contract to underwrite a $100 million bond refinancing.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, July 15, 2004
Investment banker resigns amid Illinois contract probes
Embattled investment banker P. Nicholas Hurtgen has resigned his job running the Chicago office of Bear Stearns & Co., a company spokesman confirmed Wednesday.


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