Walker Recycles Brown Bag Fundraisers
County Executive Scott Walker. | Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Scott Walker fundraising gimmick involving a brown bag to exemplify his stinginess recycles an award-winning idea that was first used by Ohio Republican George Voinovich 12 years ago.
Reusing successful campaign tactics certainly isn't new. But Walker, a Republican candidate for governor, has taken the brown bag idea to a new level by making it the central theme of his campaign.
It's the focus of his first television ad of the campaign, he's urging voters to get on board with his "brown bag movement," and he's hosting brown bag lunches across the state. His supporters can also purchase brown paper bags promoting his anti-tax philosophy.
Both Walker and Voinovich's fundraising letters, signed by the candidates' wives and mailed in a brown bag, were devised by the same New Hampshire-based direct mail consulting firm, SCM Associates. Voinovich's brown bag letter, used in his first race for U.S. Senate in 1998, netted SCM an American Association of Political Consultants' Pollie Award that year for best campaign fundraiser.
SCM isn't running from the fact that it came up with both campaigns. It even bragged about it on its Facebook page in a Feb. 26 posting: "Brown bag movement takes off in Wisconsin. Our client, Scott Walker, running for Governor starts a movement based on an SCM Associates mailing. But Walker is the real deal, he brown bags two ham and cheese sandwiches on wheat every day."
A message left with SCM president Stephen Meyers wasn't immediately returned.
Walker campaign spokeswoman Jill Bader said the brown bag theme idea for Walker didn't come from SCM but was devised during a brainstorming session with campaign staff in Wisconsin. Bader said when the campaign discussed its ideas with direct mailer SCM, the firm mentioned it had done a similar ad for Voinovich.
She said the campaign was looking for ways to express to voters how fiscally conservative Walker is and settled on the brown bag image.
"It touched people because it was incredibly genuine," she said. "Scott is the person who he says he is."
Liberal critics say copying the same fundraising tactic shows Walker is bereft of original ideas.
"Looks like he's not only recycling failed Republican economic policies that benefit the rich and bankers, he's recycling the ways to sell them," said Scot Ross, director of the left-wing advocacy group One Wisconsin Now.
The Voinovich letter was signed by his wife, Nancy. Similarly, the Walker letter was signed by his wife, Tonette. The two fundraising letters, although written 12 years apart in different states and by different people, strike a similar tone.
Tonette Walker writes, "Scott prefers to pack the same 'brown bag' lunch every day: two ham and cheese sandwiches on wheat with mayo. ... Scott calls himself frugal or fiscally conservative. I sometimes call him cheap. ... Of course, I say it with love!"
In the 1998 letter from Janet Voinovich, she writes of her husband, "He shines his own shoes and brown bags it for lunch. ... One thing I have grown to admire about him is that he is a very frugal man."
Voinovich won that election and has served in the Senate since then. Walker first ran for governor briefly in 2006 but dropped out before the primary. He is being challenged for the Republican nomination this year by former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann. The primary is Sept. 14. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is running as a Democrat.
While Walker has talked a lot about being thrifty, paying for the services of SCM isn't cheap. Last year, Walker's campaign paid the firm more than $336,000, according to campaign finance records.
And for as much as Walker talks about brown bagging his lunch every day, an AP review of campaign finance records revealed that Walker's campaign has spend nearly $25,000 on restaurant meals across the state since mid-2008.
On the Net: SCM's previous brown bag campaign: http://tiny.cc/vGsgz
Walker's brown bag movement: http://www.brownbagmovement.com/
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)