Image: Scott Walker's 2015 Statement of Economic Interests
In 2010, Scott Walker ran for governor based on his financial common sense and personal frugality. He ran a bunch of ads touting his penny-pinching ways and he even called his campaign “the brown bag movement,” a reference to the brown-bag lunches he took everywhere.
Last year, in his run for the presidency, Walker returned to the frugality well and this time bragged about the great deals he gets at Kohl’s department store—famously pointing out that he was wearing a one dollar sweater!
However, in one of the earliest blows to his presidential campaign, it was discovered that Walker was carrying tens of thousands of dollars in high-interest credit card debt. Yep, nothing says frugal like carrying over a ten thousand dollar balance with a 27.24% APR.
At the time, Walker told reporters that such disclosures were just a snapshot in time and furthermore he had filled out a financial disclosure form at the end of 2014, with a temporary expense explosion “at the end of the holidays” that gave an “exaggerated” picture of his debt.
He also calmly assured voters, “much of that is gone right now.” However, according to Walker’s most recent Statement of Economic Interests (SEI), filed for the year of 2015, that statement wasn’t exactly true.
In fact, since the time Walker made the comment that his personal finances were improving, they have actually gotten worse.
According to the latest SEI, Walker still owes somewhere between $10,000 and $100,000 in high-interest credit card debt and has three conventional bank loans totaling well over $100,000, but he also added a fourth bank loan to his family: A Wells Fargo loan that is defined as being between $5,000 and $50K.
(Oh, and just for fun, I went back and looked at Walker’s previous pre-2014 SEI and—are you sitting down?—he’s had most of this “temporary” debt, including high interest credit card balances, for years now.)
The Walker camp also tried to brush off this debt as being like any other “American family” and “all in all, pretty ordinary stuff." Yes, most Americans get paid about $150K a year, have most of their health care paid for, live rent free in a 30,000 square foot lakefront mansion, don’t have to pay for transportation, utilities, housekeeping or cooking and have round the clock security . . . and STILL find a way to carry a $10K+ high interest credit card balance.
They’ve also inferred that their debt problems are somehow related to having “two kids in college”—even though, by Walker’s own admission in the latest SEI, both sons have been paying their college expenses with six-figure student loans. Hopefully, his sons got a good rate and won’t be stuck paying a high rate their whole lives like many Wisconsinites. Unfortunately, despite Walker’s personal knowledge of how awful it is to be stuck paying a high-interest loan, he’s been unwilling to support legislation that would allow student-loan borrowers to refinance at a lower rate like borrowers do with mortgages or any other kind of loan. (He’s also made college itself more affordable by making deep cuts to Wisconsin’s public university system, but it’s all good because at the same time he’s imposing a temporary tuition freeze—which works out pretty well in the short term for students like his UW-Madison son, but will result in a huge tuition jump when the freeze is lifted in 2017.)
This all comes as it was revealed in the last few weeks that Walker ordered (for the second year in a row) the state of Wisconsin to skip its annual debt pay payment aaaaaand that Walker has nearly a million dollars of campaign debt that he still hasn’t been able to pay off. It seems that Walker has the Midas touch in reverse.
Wait a second. All this has me thinking. Remember a year and half ago when Walker broke his thumb in a “freak pheasant hunting accident"? Maybe it wasn’t an accident. Maybe some of Walker’s bill collectors aren’t so patient.