Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

The Curious Case of Stephen Einhorn

The man who “feared” for his family’s privacy is a political activist and capital insider grabbing government funding for his company.

By - Dec 13th, 2012 12:39 pm
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Isn’t it interesting how stories can change when we reconsider them in the light of current events? Take the case of the once-mysterious Stephen Einhorn.

Back in October, radio host Charlie Sykes was in his best, violin-story mode, offering the moving story of a courageous couple who “thought they were being good citizens” when they paid for those scary voter fraud billboards just before the election. They were not going to back down, they told Sykes, when Clear Channel Communications told the couple they must reveal their identity. (The company claimed it had a policy against anonymous ads.) But they changed their minds, Sykes explained, when the couple’s children “expressed strong objections, fearing not only for their parents safety, but also for the safety of their grandchildren, who… might be put at risk by the forced disclosure of the family’s name.”

We were left to picture some quiet, retiring couple who treasured their privacy, but it soon came out that the billboard ad buyers were Stephen and Nancy Einhorn, a wealthy couple who have served on the boards of numerous arts groups, and donated to a long list of Republican candidates. Stephen attended a tea party rally and wrote a letter to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel castigating the call for higher taxes on wealthy folks like him.

The Einhorns, it turns out, donated $25,000 to Gov. Scott Walker, just a month before Einhorn’s firm won a contract to manage $1 million of taxpayer money, potentially triggering federal “pay-to-play” conflict of interest rules, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has reported. Einhorn’s Capital Midwest company was among just three companies that won awards late last year from the federally-funded Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.

Einhorn, however, was looking for more government money and was lobbying legislators to create a state-financed $200 million venture capital fund. Einhorn hired a top Capitol lobbyist, Eric Petersen, who worked on the issue from August 2011 to June 2012, the JS reported. State Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) told the paper Einhorn sought a private meeting with him, but he asked Einhorn to testify at a public hearing instead. “He’s around all the time on this issue while he claims he’s not interesting in participating in the (future) program,” Cullen said.

Einhorn sounds very much like a Capitol and GOP insider who appears to have a close relationship with Republican guru Michael Grebe, whose conservative Bradley Foundation gave the Einhorn Family Foundation $10,000 which was used to pay for some voter fraud billboard ads in the 2010 election.

And, of course, Sykes is closely connected to the Bradley Foundation. His wife, Janet Riordan, works there as director of community programs. And Sykes has long been funded by the Bradley-bankrolled Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, for which he creates the conservative publication, Wisconsin Interest.

Sources have suggested that Sykes is a personal friend of the Einhorns. Even if not true (and Sykes wouldn’t address this question), it’s difficult to imagine a GOP insider like Sykes did not know the Einhorns were Republican party stalwarts with Capitol clout who received money from the Bradley Foundation and were also local arts activists. Doesn’t that cast Sykes’ “woe-is-me” tale of the privacy-seeking couple in a rather different light?

I sent Sykes an email with questions about this and he declined to answer. “Why don’t you make it up like you always do,” he replied.

Walker and Same-Day Registration 

Governor Walker has now said he won’t sign a bill ending same-day registration in elections. I think we’re entitled to doubt this.

As my recent column on this noted, Walker and the Republicans have repeatedly downplayed the idea that this legislation was a priority, essentially telling the media not to pay any attention to the bill. This sounds like more of the same.

Walker now says he wouldn’t sign a bill if it cost $5.2 million to implement, but hasn’t ruled out signing a bill that cost less. Nor has he said he would veto a bill if it was passed by Republican legislators. And the bill’s co-author, Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc), says he still favors it and his staff “are doing research on the components” of the law.

Republicans have already made comments suggesting they see this bill as a way to prevent voter fraud they claim occurs (while providing little proof of this). Originally, they passed a photo ID bill to prevent all this alleged fraud, but that was struck down by the lower courts and it now appears the state Supreme Court may not rule on this law for some time. Nor is it a slam dunk the court will uphold the law.

So if Republicans can’t get photo ID, they will want to end same-day registration. But that’s a tricky one. While polls show a majority of voters approve of photo ID, it’s unlikely a majority would approve of ending same-day registration. (Maine’s voters upheld it by a 61 percent majority). So Republicans need to deflect the public’s attention from this bill.

Walker, I might add, never told voters in his 2010 campaign that he intended to end collective bargaining rights for public employees. His aides even assured people that he would not touch the benefits of local government workers and only wanted to cut benefits for state workers. All of that was quite misleading.

Now Walker says he no long favors a bill he touted in a speech in California that was intended to burnish his credentials as a presidential candidate. Would Walker, as a 2016 GOP presidential primary candidate, want to face questions from conservatives as to why he backed down on this legislation?

With majority control of the Wisconsin legislature, Republicans can quickly pass a law ending same-day registration, just as they sought to speedily pass Act 10 (which was delayed only by the extraordinary decision of Democratic state senators to flee to Illinois). As long as the bill or “soup” Kleefisch says he’s now cooking on same-day registration includes some ingredient allowing Walker to argue it won’t actually be that costly, you can bet he’ll sign it.

10 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: The Curious Case of Stephen Einhorn”

  1. Matt says:

    And now we can put a name and picture to the Cadillac driving welfare mother that Reagan was crying it about. It’s Nancy Einhorn, spending all her corporate welfare on brie and wine and racist billboards.

  2. Edith Wagner says:

    Rachel Maddow did a very interesting expose about the “voter fraud” billboards a couple days ago. Can anyone find and post that? It’s worth seeing.

  3. Bruce says:

    Some people are just tenacious. Like the paint manufacturers who blocked
    US limits on lead for 50 years after Europeans had outlawed it . Wonder if there is any connection…..

  4. Eric Jernberg says:

    I am sure Syke’s dad would turn over in his grave if he saw what a dishonest shill his son has become for far right causes. It is people like Sykes who make average citizens, who were moving toward the center of politics, to start sliding left again.

  5. Bill Sweeney says:

    One of the remarkable things about the 2012 elections is how it pitted very wealthy individuals against the 99%. People like Sheldon Adelson and his wife provided enormous sums to Ginrich and then Romney. Some commentators said that Ginrich would not have been able to continue in the primaries if it were not for the millions of dollars given to him by Adelson. Ginrich then used that money to douse Romney with vitriol (perhaps it’s true that every cloud has a silver lining.) Republicans will point out all of the Union money from Michigan (goodbye Joe Hill) and other states, but even if you allow for that, the money originally sprang from the dues of many different workers. So deep in the weeds of the Republican mind stirs the thought that there is voter fraud, and voter fraud is outrageous because it allows the possibility that a few individuals (how many??) could swing an election. They don’t see how Citizens United allows a few individuals like Adelson to have an extremely disproportionate influence on elections.

    I may be wrong about this, but didn’t Walker and his wife have a quiet dinner with Grebe and his wife shortly after the election? Wasn’t there some suggestion that this could have been the incubation for the idea to go after collective bargaining for teachers and other public employees? They realized that they had majorities in both houses of the legislature so strike while the iron was hot.

    With regard to same day registration, one consideration for the republicans could be the upcoming State Supreme Court race which looms ever larger and larger. If they would go ahead and push thru taking away voter registration, it would surely end up in the courts. Maybe they will want to wait and see how that race goes first. The republicans seem to have gerrymandered the districts so as to assure that they will remain in power for the foreseeable future. So now they have to first concern themselves with the State Supreme Court and then in 2014 with the race for Governor.

  6. Tyrell Track Master says:

    Does anyone think these billboards actually intimidated anyone? I mean, they were idiotic and racist for sure, but why not just let these idiots waste their money on them an laugh?

  7. Dan Baker says:

    Thanks for the LOLs! Sykes’ response to you was one of the funniest things i’ve heard all week! Unless you made it up.

  8. Bruce Murphy says:

    That was indeed the actual response from Sykes.

  9. Keith Schmitz says:

    “Why don’t you make it up like you always do.”

    Charlie was projecting.

  10. Dan Adams says:

    Is it wrong that when I first saw this headline the first thing that popped in my head was this? => http://youtu.be/_2LjwM3B688 . Such a great movie.

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