Wisconsin's Republican governor, Scott Walker, in his Madison, Wis., office. Scott Bauer/AP Photo
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Scott Walker has been a polarizing figure since becoming Wisconsin’s governor one year ago. Only months after moving into the Madison governors’ mansion, the 44-year-old Republican sought to fix the state’s budget gap by pushing a bill that cut pay and benefits for public sector workers and strictly curtailed their rights to collective bargaining.

Walker’s surprising move was controversial – and ultimately successful. National labor activists fought and lost while he became a Fox News regular.

But now, largely as a result of his brazenness, the first-term governor is facing a potential recall election. State Democrats and local union organizers have until Jan. 17 to gather the 540,208 signatures needed to force an early vote sometime this year.

Walker defended his actions and attempted to explain the flood of cash he’s received from outside the state since his standoff with organized labor in a three-part profile by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, the final installment of which was published Tuesday.

Out-of-state donors have given the embattled governor $3.2 million as of Dec. 10, the final campaign contributions disclosure deadline in 2011. That sum accounts for an unusually high 42 percent of his total war chest.

“Not a penny of that would be here if it weren’t for the recalls,” Walker said.

Here are six facts about Walker from the series for Wisconsin voters — and the rest of us — to consider:

  1. Walker is the first governor in Wisconsin history to face a recall attempt. If he loses a potential recall election, he would be only the third governor in U.S. history to be thrown out of the statehouse mid-term.
  2. PolitiFact Wisconsin has deemed 27 statements the governor has made about the state finances, the public sector protestors, and school staffing numbers “Mostly False,” “False” or, worse, “Pants on Fire.” The fact-checking group has reviewed 39 statements from Walker.
  3. In a taped phone call with a blogger posing to be conservative mega-donor David Koch in February, Scott Walker admitted that he had “thought about” planting troublemakers among the labor protestors in an effort to discredit the movement.
  4. As Milwaukee County executive in 2009, Walker sent layoff notices to public sector employees in an effort “to get their attention,” as he put it in an interview with a Madison radio host.
  5. As a sophomore at Wisconsin’s Marquette University, which Walker attended but did not graduate from, he ran for student body president. The future governor lost the election after he was sanctioned for illegal campaigning and called “unfit” by the student paper for his “blatant mudslinging.”
  6. Walker’s first experience in fundraising was for an Iowa flag. As an 8-year-old living in Plainfield, Iowa, he collected money in a mayonnaise jar to help buy a state flag to fly in front of the building where city meetings were held, according to his mother, Patricia Walker, a retired bookkeeper. His father was a Baptist minister.

For more on the controversial Republican, check out all three stories in the series and the full interview with Walker.

Your support is crucial!

Our newsroom needs to raise $121,000 by end of the year so we can hold the power accountable and strengthen our democracy in 2024. Public Integrity doesn’t have paywalls and doesn’t accept advertising. We depend on individuals like you to sustain quality journalism.