Bucks co-owner is now Scott Walker’s fundraising chair, what a funny coincidence!

From the “now you tell us” department, the International Business Times’ David Sirota and Andrew Perez reported on Friday, two days after the Wisconsin state senate approved a $450 million arena subsidy for the Milwaukee Bucks, that Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential fundraising chief is in line to directly profit from the deal:

Real estate mogul Jon Hammes, who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and causes, is a prominent member of the investor group that owns Milwaukee’s NBA team. Last week CNN reported that he also will serve as the Walker campaign’s national finance co-chairman. Days after that appointment, Walker’s Republican allies in the Wisconsin state Senate backed the governor’s proposal to spend public funds on a new arena for the Bucks.


Walker’s office replied that Hammes wasn’t part of Walker’s team when Walker proposed the Bucks deal, though IBT notes that he was already a major Walker donor. A Walker spokesperson also defended the plan by saying it “protects taxpayers from the loss of $299 million if a new stadium is not built and the NBA moves the Milwaukee Bucks to another state,” a piece of terrible math that I debunked for Vice Sports on Thursday.

There’s still a chance that the state assembly could vote this whole mess down, but with state Republican and Democratic leaders now both on board, that doesn’t seem likely to happen. On big-money issues, red and blue typically matter a whole lot less than green.

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12 comments on “Bucks co-owner is now Scott Walker’s fundraising chair, what a funny coincidence!

  1. Venality and stupidity probably play equal parts in this scam. Don’t pick on Gov. Walker; the outcome would have been exactly the same if he had been a Democrat. He (like EVERY other pol in the state) has no understanding of the economics of subsidized professional sports. He may or may not believe the nonsense fed to him by the boosters and grifters – it doesn’t really matter. Try to imagine anyone in the state assembly or senate actually putting together a cogent economic analysis of this or any other large-dollar public expenditure. It probably never gets any more sophisticated than “sounds good to me.”

  2. While I think it’s still worth picking on Walker for what he’s done here, I agree with you that it wouldn’t have mattered if he were a Democrat. Less because he doesn’t understand the economics involved (though that may well be the case too) than that he has a lot of incentives not to think too hard about them. See:


    And also Kevin Delaney and Rick Eckstein’s great book on this subject, “Public Dollars, Private Stadiums”:


  3. While it is true that sincerity is no substitute for disinterestedness, this is no scandal. Walker believes in keeping the Bucks, even if it means lots of giveaways to the new owners. Hammes believes in Walker and has for years (as Neil noted). Now, if Walker failed to disclose that a campaign donor was also a Bucks owner, then that would be shady. But this has always been out in the open.

  4. This is probably only the tip of the iceberg of political money influencing this deal–among both parties. (Lasry & Edens are big Dem donors.) Agree completely with Dave about all ignoring basic econ facts and parroting hype & lies.

    Govt. spending $400M (in cash alone) to bring in, optimistically, $299M in Bucks-related income tax, is stupid math. What’s worse is Milwaukee pols lining up to subsidize a Bucks-monopoly mall with “the country’s biggest sports bar” designed to overrun 40 local businesses within spitting distance of the arena.

    MKE’s “Father Knows Best” Mayor Barrett (featured on John Oliver’s show–touting Bucks fans in China!) keeps asserting it’s impossible to have too many bars and restaurants in any one area. He’s pledged to give the Bucks a lucrative city garage (with 30 good years left) to tear down and make way for a block-long, multi-story mall (with city paying $35M for a new garage).

    Maybe the city could make money by being part of a “Survivor” type reality show to showcase this Darwinian lunacy.

    Suspenseful story lines…Will a “reassuringly bland” mall (w/75% national chains and a big merch shop) attract throngs of suburbanites when the arena is dark? Will urban hipsters shun the Anywhere USA vortex? Which will be the first biz to close? Will it be one of the local oldies or a bar-mall newbie? Un-Happy Hour specials and free popcorn!

  5. In the vice sports piece, you refer to the magic basketball being inspired by Wrath of Khan. Are we sure Walker isn’t planning to “regenerate” any recently-deceased political donors buried in MKE ?

  6. As PPD notes, scams like these are one of the ways cities destroy locally-owned businesses in order to replace them with chain outlets. Cities will subsidize Cabela’s in order to put local (non-subsidized) sporting goods stores out of business.

    Who will go to the Bucks’ mega-mall-bar? I dunno. It won’t be me. I was in Milwaukee earlier this year, and I darn sure didn’t eat or drink in any chain stores. Not sure why the Powers that Be think this will be a tourist attraction.

  7. Dave, many locals feel likewise. We love our local joints of every stripe and price point. And many of these boring packaged malls fail or limp along (google Nathaniel Hood “entertainment districts”). MKE already has a dying downtown mall, but this is all part of the Bucks’ “extortion package.” Give us an arena, 30 free acres, AND AN SQUARE-BLOCK ENTERTAINMENT MALL–or we’re outta here!! (They may be outta here after they get their new arena anyway.)

    As you already noted, “sounds-good-to-me” pols may not even pretend this will be a “tourist attraction” or economically viable. Campaign cash speaks far louder! Many state pols may not even know the mall’s part of the deal–or the arena’s location or that there’s a nightlife mob scene 1-3 blocks away EVERY weekend night–WITHOUT any arena events. But that target market is under 30 and probably not bugging legislators.

    State pols also don’t seem to care about burdening Milwaukee’s convention/tourism district with strangling debt or any other destructive aspects of the bill the Senate passed.

    It’s really quite scary but the Powers That Be in MKE don’t seem to listen to economists, urban planners, taxpayers etc. who keep screaming JUST SAY NO!

  8. This sort of line-blurring goes on at every level of government, and then when it comes time to elect leaders, most people stay home. I don’t know how we can solve this kind of problem if most people are apathetic.

    I still can’t believe that Kevin Johnson is our mayor. Have you read any recent stories coming out of Sacramento? According to a former employee, about 80% of the emails produced by Kevin Johnson used his gmail account. We’ll never get to see those emails. Using private emails like this should probably disqualify him from further service. This kind of thing may keep me from voting for Clinton next year.

    KJ gave office space to charities he liked, in City Hall, for free. KJ has personal friends who served on Think Big. KJ is trying to do a mass-deletion of City emails more than 2 years old. KJ had Americorps volunteers perform personal tasks. And on and on. Shouldn’t any one of these things doom him?

  9. Surely the guys voice and hairdo already prevent him from becoming president. Naked corruption from the fiscal conservative. Brags about fighting the unions; builds a half-billion dollar arena for a basketball team.

  10. I agree that this sort of quid pro quo is appalling. It fails both the impropriety and appearance of impropriety tests.

    But is anyone surprised? In a country where billionaire bankers not only don’t go to jail for outright fraud, but where taxpayer funds (under the control of beholden-solely-to-wealth representatives) sail in to cover any losses so that the billionaire bankers keep both their jobs and bonuses?

    Seriously? Who does this surprise?

    As MikeM said, so long as the people who should be outraged and demanding change just stay home on election day, this sort of thing will never change.

  11. Get the best bang for the Bucks! Move the Bucks back in NBA time, to Sheboygan!! More value, more history, more economic impact, more statewide team support (ala Green Bay!). Support the move to Sheboygan!! http://www.facebook.com/sheboyganbucks

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