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By John Nichols
Scott Walker is running for his political life.
In Illinois. And Michigan. And Florida. And Texas. And Arizona. And California. And Washington, D.C.
Rarely in history has a governor who is in so much trouble in his home state spent so much time in other states.
But Walker, who faces a recall election primary May 8 and a general election June 5, can’t afford to spend too much time in Wisconsin.
Because the lifeblood of his candidacy is not ideas and leadership skills.
It is out-of-state money.
If Walker does not keep hustling for that money, his effort to retain the job he won in 2010 with an unprecedented level of special-interest spending — via campaign contributions to his own organization and so-called “independent” expenditures by national groups such as the Republican Governors Association — will collapse.
Around the time that the petitions bearing the names of almost 1 million Wisconsinites were filed to recall the governor, the report filed by the Walker campaign revealed that 61 percent of his donations had come from out of state.
And the money was not coming in small checks.
Half of the $4.5 million that Walker collected during the filing period in question came from 33 donors. That’s an average of more than $135,000 per donor.
During a period of one week in January, Walker collected $1 million from just four donors. None of them lived in Wisconsin. They were from Missouri and Texas.
Now that the recall is approaching, however, the real money is flowing from the biggest of Walker’s out-of-state donors: billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
Americans for Prosperity, which David Koch acknowledges he and his brother are using to promote Walker’s candidacy, has already spent more than $1 million on pro-Walker television ads during the run-up to the recall vote.
And on Friday it was learned that David Koch has donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which is already up with ads attacking the front-runner among the Democratic candidates for governor, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
The RGA recently purchased more than $3 million in advertising time — through a front group named “Right Direction Wisconsin” — on television stations in Wisconsin’s major media markets.
So, at this point, one-third of the RGA ads attacking Walker’s most likely challenger are being paid for by one man, David Koch.
Last year, Walker spent 20 minutes talking with a blogger he thought was David Koch.
The Koch caller suggested: “Once you crush these bastards I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.”
Walker’s response was: “All right!”
As it happened, Wisconsinites refused to be crushed.
They pushed back.
But Walker did fly out to California. And he continues to fly everywhere else — except Wisconsin — to pick up those checks.
With new reports showing that Walker’s policies continue to cost Wisconsin thousands of jobs each month, the governor has run out of arguments for his approach to governing.
With new reports showing that Walker has run up tens of thousands of dollars in bills for criminal defense lawyers who were hired to help him address a burgeoning John Doe inquiry into official and campaign corruption, the governor appears to be running out of excuses for how he and his aides have played politics.
But the one thing he has not run out of is money from the Koch brothers and other out-of-state donors.
That money is all that is keeping him in contention.
As the jobs figures and scandal news catch up with Scott Walker, it is hard to imagine that even the Koch brothers have enough money to save the man who serves as their governor.
John Nichols is the associate editor of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org