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To fend off a recall effort aimed at removing him from office, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has traveled out of state to raise campaign money and been accused of being both greedy and secretive.
Democrat Kathleen Falk made such an attack on Feb. 18, 2012, 10 days after the Republican governor made a political trip to Florida.
Falk, a former Dane County executive who has announced she will run against Walker in a recall election expected later in 2012, said at a candidates forum:
"My calendar will be public, unlike Scott Walker's. The only reason we know he's in Florida is because of Facebook. It's bad enough that he's out of state raising these unforeseen amounts of money from billionaires and millionaires instead of working here for us. But the fact that he's on our dime and we don't know where he is, is wrong. So, my record and my schedule will be public."
Let’s check both parts of Falk’s claim -- that Walker doesn’t make his schedule public and that "he’s on our dime and we don’t know where he is."
When asked for evidence to back Falk’s claim, Falk campaign spokesman Scot Ross said Walker does not post his schedule on a website or make it directly accessible to the public in any other way.
It’s true that Walker does not post his schedule ahead of time. For some events, he gives advance notice to reporters. And under the state open records law, he also issues a monthly calendar -- after the fact -- to reporters and others who request it.
That calendar, which lists Walker’s official activities as governor, is usually distributed about 10 days after the month ends, said Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie.
The two most recent monthly calendars available -- December 2011 and January 2012 -- list activities from morning until night, with a time frame listed for each. Included are activities such as public appearances, meetings, media interviews, travel and phone calls; some blocks of time are simply listed as personal.
Werwie said calendars aren’t released ahead of time because the governor’s schedule can change by the hour.
Walker’s predecessor, Democrat Jim Doyle, initially provided more information.
Doyle released to reporters a weekly list of some of his upcoming public events, but stopped the practice near the end of his first term. During both of his terms, Doyle released a detailed monthly calendar after the fact. But, unlike Walker, he included events that, while not specified as political, could be easily ascertained as political events.
Falk, who ran for governor and state attorney general while Dane County executive, issued a weekly notice listing highlights of some of her upcoming events as county executive, Ross said. Falk herself said: "I didn't think it was the wisest thing to do to put campaign things on the county exec calendar regularly." So, in terms of excluding political events, Falk's list of upcoming events was similar to Walker's official calendar.
Madison attorney Robert Dreps, an expert in media and political law, said governors are not compelled to create a schedule, but if they do, it is generally considered a public record that must be released upon request.
So, Falk is partially correct on the first part of her claim. Walker doesn’t keep a public schedule that would enable citizens to know his plans ahead of time, but he does release his schedule after the fact.
‘On our dime’
The second part of Falk’s claim -- that Walker is "on our dime and we don’t know where he is" -- suggests that while he’s working for the taxpayers, he takes political trips and doesn’t give notice of them.
Falk’s campaign provided two Madison newspaper articles to support this part of the claim.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported in December 2011 that Walker "has refused to keep the public informed as to his comings and goings. His presence in New York, or Texas or Washington has been learned after the fact and almost always tipped off by a blogger or a website listing." The Capital Times reported six weeks later that the "governor's office does not send out press releases when he's headed out of town on campaign or personal business."
Werwie, the governor’s spokesman, confirmed that the governor’s office does not publicize Walker’s political events or include them in his official calendar, saying the office tries to draw a line between official and political events. He cited a state statute that prohibits political events from being planned, staffed or paid for by the governor’s office.
Attorney Dreps said it is arguable that political events would not have to be listed on calendars Walker releases, because Walker is not conducting official business, but that hasn’t been tested in court.
So, Falk is partially correct on the second part of her claim, as well. It’s true that Walker doesn’t routinely notify the public about his political trips. But almost by definition he’s not "on the public dime" if he’s raising campaign money or involved in other political activity.
Falk said Walker doesn't make his work schedule public -- "he's on our dime and we don't know where he is."
Walker makes his schedule public, but only after the fact. And while he typically doesn’t give notice of his political activities, it’s off base to claim he’s on the public dime during those times.
We rate Falk’s statement Half True.
Rep. Peter Barca, radio address criticizing Walker calendar, fund-raising, Jan. 5, 2012
YouTube.com, video of Wisconsin Progressive Grassroots Festival candidates forum, Feb. 18, 2012
Email interview, Kathleen Falk campaign spokesman Scot Ross, Feb. 29, March 5 and 6, 2012
Email interview, Scott Walker campaign spokesman Ciara Matthews, March 6, 2012
Interview and mail interview, Gov. Scott Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie, March 5, 2012
Interview, Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council President Bill Lueders, March 5, 2012
Associated Press, "Dayton backtracks on calendar view," Feb. 19, 2012
Email interview, National Governors Association office of communications director Jodi Omear, March 5, 2012
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Walker raises millions to fight recall effort," Jan. 23, 2012
Wisconsin State Journal, "Where’s Walker? Out-of-state travel often kept secret," Dec. 25, 2011
The Capital Times, "We know Walker’s on the road again, thanks to protesters," Feb. 9, 2012
Interview, attorney Robert Dreps, March 6, 2012
WisPolitics.com, Kathleen Falk statement, March 6, 2012
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