MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker can’t avoid union troubles, even when he’s trying to be bipartisan.
Walker invited state lawmakers to a cookout at the governor’s mansion after winning a recall election last week that was spurred by anger over a law he pushed through the Legislature effectively eliminating most public workers’ union rights.
Now, he’s angered the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union with his plan to serve beer at the Tuesday cookout designed to help bring Republicans and Democrats together. The WCTU successfully lobbied for Prohibition, which made selling alcohol illegal from about 1920 to the early 1930s, and its 5,000 members continue to spread its anti-drinking message nationwide.
“I don’t think it’s cool at all,” said Rita Wert, president of the WCTU. “It sets a very poor example.”
The cookout menu features brats, a local sausage whose name is pronounced “brahts,” and beer produced by a number of Wisconsin companies. Root beer from Milwaukee-area brewer Sprecher, which made a special label saying “Moving Wisconsin Forward,” also will be served.
Walker pitched the event as a laid-back way to heal political wounds, find common ground and encourage political opponents to work together. Ninety-eight lawmakers, including 37 Democrats, 60 Republicans and one independent, along with about 240 staff members plan to attend the two-hour cookout Tuesday afternoon.
Thirty-four lawmakers have declined the invitation, with at least four publically stating their displeasure with the idea. But their reasons were all tied to politics, not abstinence.
Wert said the problems facing Wisconsin are serious, and policy makers shouldn’t cloud their judgment by drinking alcohol.
“That portrays kind of a party atmosphere, and I don’t think that’s what people want,” she said. “It’s just really a shame that it has to be that way.”
The group raised similar objections in 2009 when President Barack Obama invited a black scholar and the white police sergeant who arrested him to the White House to share a beer and talk about race relations.
Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said the governor respectfully disagreed with the WCTU’s objections.
“In keeping with the bipartisan theme of the event, in this case we agree with President Obama,” Werwie said.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)