Assembly Dems seek to tighten process for controversial sporting grantDemocrats on the Assembly and Senate Natural Resources Committees unveiled legislation Wednesday that would rewrite the scandal-plagued Sporting Heritage Grant.
Democrats on the Assembly and Senate Natural Resources Committees unveiled legislation Wednesday that would rewrite the scandal-plagued Sporting Heritage Grant. They seek to replace the shady language that Republicans inserted into the biennial budget to benefit an organization with close political ties to Governor Scott Walker and Republican campaigns.
Through a deeply flawed process, a $500,000 grant was awarded to United Sportsmen of Wisconsin, Inc., a political lobbying group with close links to Republican campaigns and right-wing conservative groups. Over the course of the last few weeks, numerous negative and embarrassing revelations came to light about the grant and the sole group that applied for it, causing it to ultimately be rescinded.
“Nearly daily the public learns new, scandalous information that makes it clear that a broad group of Republicans rammed this grant through, using Wisconsin outdoor sports enthusiasts as a cover to funnel taxpayer money to shady political allies,” Rep. Nick Milroy (D-South Range) said. “Every hunter in the state should be outraged that Republicans tried to fleece them into using our hunting heritage to cover up a political giveaway. Our legislation unveiled today is aimed at making sure our tax money is wisely spent to honestly preserve our hunting heritage.”
The budget drafting file shows that the Sporting Heritage Grant Program was created by language inserted in the biennial budget by Republicans, 18 of whom sent a letter backing United Sportsmen, the shady group that misrepresented its tax status. The language was crafted in a way that prohibited highly regarded conservation groups that have solid training experience from being qualified for the grant.
“After Democratic JFC members were duped into passing the Sporting Heritage grant, I am proud that we have found a way to reinvest these important dollars into the outdoor education of Wisconsin’s next generation,” Sen. Robert Wirch (D-Somers). “As a lifelong fisherman, I am deeply invested in ensuring that Wisconsin’s next generation is provided the opportunity to learn about and love our great outdoors.”
Led by Rep. Milroy, the Democratic members of the legislature’s Natural Resources committees today unveiled legislation that maintains the Sporting Heritage Grant but changes the process for its distribution.
Under the bill, the Department of Natural Resources is directed to establish rules to award the grant to non-profit organizations that:
Educate and train persons who engage in hunting, fishing or trapping;
Conduct programs to recruit persons to engage in hunting, fishing or trapping; or
Conduct programs to encourage continued engagement in hunting, fishing or trapping.
A non-profit organization is defined as one that meets the requirements under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and that is exempt from federal income tax under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code.
The dollar amount of the program remains the same as the original language; however, the maximum amount of funding an organization can obtain in a biennium is $100,000. This ensures a competitive process and allows more than one organization to receive funding in a biennium. Beginning with the grants awarded in the 2015-17 biennium, a non-profit organization that receives a grant must contribute 25 percent of the cost of the activity for which the grant is awarded.
The DNR will award the grants following consultation with the Sporting Heritage Council. In addition, recipients of a grant must provide reports both midway through the grant period and at the end of the grant, detailing how the grant was spent. This report will be provided to both the DNR and the Sporting Heritage Council.