Walker Signs Bill to Let High-End Donor Get Public Cash for Golf Course

June 26, 2015

Republican Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill into law that allows a developer who has contributed more than $21,000 to his campaign and the state Republican Party to receive public grants or loans to build high-end golf courses.

The law makes a one-time change in state Tax Incremental District requirements to allow the town of Rome to provide direct grants or loans to Chicago businessman Mike Keiser to build golf courses and lodging on about 1,500 acres of land about 15 miles south of Wisconsin Rapids. Tax Incremental Districts are created by local governments through the state Tax Incremental Finance (TIF) program, which uses tax breaks and other incentives to encourage new businesses to locate on blighted land or in economically depressed areas.

Keiser made a fortune in the greeting card industry and has built world-class golf courses in Oregon, Florida and Nova Scotia. He said construction of the first course and a clubhouse would start this year and cost between $5 million and $6.5 million. The project is called Sand Valley.

Keiser, who is a frequent contributor to state and federal Republican candidates, political committees and conservative causes, contributed $11,100 to Walker between February 2012 and September 2014, and $10,000 to the state Republican Party last October, about two weeks before the November general elections.