Most Popular Murphy’s Law Columns
Readers liked stories about Tims -- Michels and Ramthun. And Summerfest, its well paid leader and IRS complaint were hot stuff.
2022 was a big campaign year and the biggest surprise was the late entry of Tim Michels into the race for Wisconsin governor. It was nearly May when Michels announced his run, less than four months before the primary election but, as we wrote, “Michels has to be seen as a threat, not just to [Rebecca] Kleefisch and the other Republican candidates, but to Democratic incumbent Gov. Tony Evers. Why? Because he could spend huge amounts of money.”
It was the most read Murphy’s Law column of 2022, and Michels did indeed spend a lot of money, beating front-running GOP candidate Kleefisch and scaring Evers before losing, as did many other 2020 election-denying Republican candidates in the nation’s midterm election (though most — 60%! — won election). Meanwhile the bizarre candidacy of Rep. Tim Ramthun, who rose quickly to become a candidate for governor, the top demagogue in state Republican Party and a lightning rod for amused coverage nationally, made our column on him a reader favorite.
No subject generated more readership for this column than Summerfest, which figured in three of the 10 most popular columns. There was the astounding salary of its CEO Don Smiley, who earned $2.49 million in two years. There was its decision to partner with the Live Nation monopoly (and its affiliated company) to build two concert venues to compete with locally owned organizations (a proposal that soon died, with it now planned for the Fiserv Forum area in partnership with the Milwaukee Bucks). And there was the news that an IRS complaint has been filed against Summerfest, claiming the non-profit, tax-exempt entity now operates “as a commercial entity” that “directly competes with for-profit firms in the Milwaukee area” and “leverages its tax-exempt status to engage in anti-competitive behavior.” It was all enough to turn the Summerfest smile into a frown.
In a year when partisan rancor may have been the worst in American politics since the Civil War, the creation of a liberal talk radio station in Republican Waukesha, and a “woke” controversy which erupted at Concordia University were also popular subjects. No one can say this column is shy about wading into controversy, and its author plans to ring in the New Year with an equal fortitude towards the most pressing issues facing this city and state.
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