State OKs Key Permit for Major GOP Donor’s Golf Course

January 18, 2018

The state approved the first in a string of permits sought by a major GOP campaign contributor to build a high-end golf course along the Lake Michigan shore that uses state park land.

Plans for the 247-acre, 18-hole course call for four acres of forest and wetland in the Kohler-Andrae State Park in Sheboygan County to build a golf course maintenance facility and service road. The course is being built by the Kohler Co., whose owner, Herbert V. Kohler, Jr., is a major contributor to Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

The permit, which will allow the destruction of nearly four acres of wetlands, was approved Wednesday by the Department of Natural Resources. The company agreed to create a larger amount of wetlands elsewhere and pay $200,000 in wetland restoration costs to get the permit.

In addition, the agency also released documents that show expected surges in congestion at Kohler-Andrae State Park when the course is operating, possible harm to a dozen threatened or endangered species at or near the golf course project, and negative effects on groundwater levels and quality. 

Kohler Co. employees contributed $60,765 between January 2010 and June 2017 to legislative and statewide candidates. Most of the employee contributions – $48,500 – were made by Herbert Kohler.

Herbert Kohler contributed $40,000 to Walker, $5,000 to GOP Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, $2,000 to Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, of Juneau, and $1,500 to former GOP Sen. Joe Leibham, of Sheboygan, between January 2010 and June 2017.

Kohler Co. has built two other high-end 18-hole golf courses in Wisconsin – Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits, which was the site of the PGA Championship in 2004, 2010 and 2015.