Walker, Vukmir Court the Israel Lobby
A great way to get donations from billionaires like Sheldon Adelson.
In fact, the actual language of the executive order targeted a particular form of alleged discrimination, an economic boycott against Israel, something advocated by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. This was started in 2005 by Palestinian leaders to pressure Israel to withdraw from lands it occupied in 1967, dismantle its settlements in the West Bank and allow Palestinians in exile to return to the lands they formerly occupied.
The boycott has been roundly condemned by Israel and many American Jewish groups and has had a small impact in the U.S. It has been embraced on some college campuses and by the Presbyterian Church, which voted in 2013 to divest from three companies that supply Israel with military and communications equipment, and two years later by the United Church of Christ.
As for businesses joining the boycott, few have; two that did are the Danske Bank in Denmark and Crepes and Waffles, a Columbian restaurant chain. I guess this means state agencies in Wisconsin will have to go elsewhere for their crepes and waffles.
In reality, the executive order has nothing to do with public policy, and is just about courting favor with American Jewish groups. And sure enough, they responded as he hoped: “We thank Governor Walker and all the state legislators who have shown leadership on this issue,” said Michael Blumenfeld, director of the Wisconsin Jewish Conference, which represents the state Jewish community. The reference to legislators was because of Senate Bill 450 and Assembly Bill 553, which would prohibit local governments from adopting rules to boycott doing business with Israel, as the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (WDC) has reported.
Ironically, also joining in the praise for Walker was longtime Democratic activist Hannah Rosenthal, President and CEO of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, who declared in the same press release that “BDS initiatives sever economic ties between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors, and therefore are counter-productive to developing a long-term lasting peaceful solution.”
But the real goal for Walker is to win the approval of billionaire Sheldon Adelson, and any other billionaires, Jewish or Christian, with hawkish pro-Israel views. Adelson has “been involved in recent years in efforts against BDS,” the WDC reports. “He and his wife, Miriam, directly contributed $270,000 to Walker’s 2012 recall and 2014 reelection campaigns. In addition, Adelson contributed another $650,000 in 2014 to the state Republican Party, which turned around days later and contributed $600,000 to Walker’s campaign.”
Adelson was a key donor targeted by Walker’s advisors, when his campaign was colluding with supposedly independent advocacy groups like Wisconsin Club for Growth, and which was being investigated by a John Doe probe later shut down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Walker’s campaign consultant Kate Doner noted in an email that “Wisconsin Club for Growth can accept corporate and personal donations without limitations and no donors disclosure,” and urged Walker to “Get on a plane to Vegas and sit down with Sheldon Adelson.”
That’s exactly what Walker did when he was running for president in 2014, and you can bet he will again should he run again for president.
Also in need of the backing of billionaires is Republican state Sen. Leah Vukmir, who is battling Kevin Nicholson in the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Tammy Baldwin. Nicholson has the support of billionaire Richard Uihlein and other fat cats while Vukmir has the backing of billionaire Diane Hendricks, but so far seems to be trailing in the money battle. But if she could land the support of Adelson, what a coup that would be.
Back in June 2016, Vukmir wrote a remarkable column for the American Legislative Exchange Council, in which she called the BDS movement “an aggressive disinformation campaign dedicated to one goal: to destroy the Jewish state. Nowhere in the column does she explain the goals of the BDS movement; instead she leaves readers with the impression this is just a virulent example of anti-semitism.
Well, yes, there has been a rise in hate crimes and anti-semitism in the U.S., and we have a president allied with white supremacist groups who has failed to condemn pro-Nazi groups in this country. But Vukmir has offered no criticism of these groups or of President Donald Trump’s embrace of the so-called Alt Right.
Beyond the loony politics behind the positions of Walker and Vukmir, beyond their efforts to gain the support of billionaires, is what has happened to our political parties as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United opening the door to unlimited campaign donations by the super wealthy, whose donation can distort the political philosophies of candidates.
Once the Republican Party could be counted to support policies backed by the business community, but not any more. Thus, Gov. Walker came out against improving and expanding I-94, probably the number one item on the wish list of business leaders, and has slashed historic preservation tax credits favored by many real estate developers.
Instead, Walker is concerned with making sure state agencies aren’t doing any business with the Crepes and Waffles chain.
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