April 5, 2018
A GOP bill that prohibits state and local governments from boycotting Israel was signed into law by Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
The measure, Assembly Bill 553, also prohibits businesses from being involved in the so-called Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement when they have contracts for goods and services worth $100,000 or more with state and local governments. The BDS movement is aimed at pressuring Israel to stop oppressing the Palestinian people.
The bill reflects anti-BDS efforts backed in recent years by Las Vegas Sands casino owner Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire benefactor for conservative and GOP candidates in federal and state races across the country, including Walker.
Adelson and his wife, Miriam, directly contributed $270,000 to Walker’s 2012 recall and 2014 reelection campaigns. Adelson also contributed another $650,000 in 2014 to the state Republican Party, which turned around days later and contributed $600,000 to Walker’s campaign.
One of the bill’s authors, GOP State Sen. Leah Vukmir, of Brookfield, a candidate for U.S. Senate, has not received contributions so far from the Adelsons.
In addition to the bill, Walker also signed an executive order last fall that prohibits the state from doing business with anyone who participates in a boycott against Israel. Walker’s Executive Order 261 calls the boycott “discriminatory” and says it “serves to inflame conflict.”
The Wisconsin bill had only a single backer on record, the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, and was opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, whose executive director testified against the bill at a January public hearing.