Last week, the Wisconsin Senate approved $250 million—and at least $174 million more in interest—in public funds to build the Milwaukee Bucks a new arena. The plan was championed at every step of the way by Gov. Scott Walker, who has designs on the White House. His war chest will be administered by one of the Bucks’ owners.
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.
A Walker aide maintains that Walker had been pushing the arena deal before Hammes signed on to his campaign, though the arena plan was unveiled three months after the group including Hammes purchased the team. The International Business Times notes that Hammes has been a major donor to Walker for a decade, and that Hammes’s real estate firm has recently purchased land near the site of the proposed new arena.
There’s apparently nothing illegal or even actionable here; uncomfortably close ties between businessmen and politicians is S.O.P., even (especially) when it comes to doling out taxpayer cash for the great stadium scam. But that mundanity adds an extra layer of frustration to the whole thing. The Bucks and pro-arena lawmakers will not shut up about the (unproven, likely nonexistent) benefits to Wisconsin residents. They won’t dare mention the benefits to themselves.