Gov. Walker's favor for real estate donors

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Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-Wisc.) desire to defund and dismantle public employee unions may get all the press, but that part of his plan isn’t the only handout to his special interest donors.

The Capital Times reports this morning that a provision in Gov. Walker’s budget would “eliminate the farmland conversion fee and a farmland preservation program still in its infancy” and would “gut key components of the Working Lands Initiative.”

The Wisconsin Realtors Association opposed the conversion fee and as the article states, “It appears the Wisconsin Realtors Association’s message reached Walker.”

Of course, Gov. Walker's 2010 election campaign benefited greatly from real estate donors, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Gov. Walker received at least $420,297 in campaign contributions from real estate interests in 2010, including $43,125 from the Wisconsin Realtors Association. The real estate industry represents the third biggest giving group to Gov. Walker.

Here are a few other top real estate donors to Gov. Walker's campaign:

  • The Concerned Realtors Committee, a political action committee for the Greater Milwaukee Realtors Association, gave $43,125.
  • John Burke, the owner of Milwaukee-area real estate firm Burke Properties, donated $12,000.
  • Michael Eisenga, the president of First American Funding Co., a Wisconsin mortgage brokerage, gave $10,000.
  • Louie Lange, president of the Wisconsin development firm The Commonwealth Companies, gave $10,000.

Ending the PACE program and the conversion maybe be a boon to the pocketbooks of real estate developers, but it will make it harder for farmers to make a living, according to critics of Gov. Walker’s plan.

“Without PACE, farmers who want to continue to farm but need to raise cash often don’t have options beyond selling off some of their land,” says Jim Welsh, the executive director of the Natural Heritage Land Trust. “Then if they sell, they may end up having a new neighbor who complains about manure spreading or late-night harvesting of crops, which makes it harder for farmers to operate their business.”

If only the farmers could fork over $10,000 donations.

Gov. Walker’s budget also includes a provision that would offer no-bid sales for state-owned utility companies. As we noted in a recent report, Wisconsin Republicans recently held a fundraiser in Washington, D.C. with lobbying firm BGR. BGR represents WE Energies, a Wisconsin electric utility company whose clients gave thousands of dollars to Gov. Walker’s 2010 campaign.