Scott Walker's campaign in meltdown: Donors scheme to oust campaign manager

Reports of a "whisper campaign" against top strategist Rick Wiley are just the latest signs of a flailing campaign

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published September 18, 2015 5:21PM (EDT)

Scott Walker                        (Reuters/Carlos Barria)
Scott Walker (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

Top donors to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker are so fed up with the mismanagement of his campaign that they are plotting to take down campaign manager Rick Wiley by circulating a "whisper campaign" against Wiley, reports Buzzfeed's McKay Coppins.

“We need folks to help us out right now,” Walker reportedly told donors on a conference call after CNN's GOP debate this week, urging his money men to sell his lackluster performance as  “feisty” and “aggressive” to media.

Walker, whose poll numbers have plummeted in the crucial early voting state of Iowa, was dealt less time to speak than any other candidate and whined to Glenn Beck on Thursday that the media would have declared former HP executive Carly Fiorina the winner of the debate "no matter what."

When Walker met with top donors less than 12 hours after the debate ended late Wednesday evening for a fundraiser at the home of Republican pollster and Fox News regular Frank Luntz, the struggling candidate was forced to assuage concerns his campaign is sinking, alluding to a surefire plan to win Iowa.

Well, it appears as though Walker's donors are unwilling to wait-and-see from the sidelines and have taken matters into their own hands in an effort to rescue the campaign from ending like one-time competitor Rick Perry's.

According to Buzzfeed, "a number of Walker’s donors and supporters have been circulating a rumor about Wiley in recent days, apparently aimed at discrediting him and bringing about a shakeup in the organization ... They also said an anonymous letter about Wiley is circulating in political and donor circles, though it is unclear where it originated."

Walker spokesperson Kirsten Kukowski acknowledged the rumors but would not confirm any details. Kukowski said the rumor was false and insisted that the campaign would not be distracted by what she called a “sideshow.”

Buzzfeed highlighted this tweet from conservative personality Erick Erickson to bolster the report:

A Washington Post report illuminates some of the donor's concerns with Wiley's management, namely accusations that he's dropped the ball on fundraising while ramping up hiring. "There is a substantial amount of chatter that he needs to go," one Walker donor told the Post, adding, "people are worried." Some suggested to the Post that longtime Walker adviser Keith Gilkes, who currently heads a pro-Walker PAC, be brought in to replace Wiley.

"Reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated," Wiley reassured the Capital Times on Thursday. Despite "the vicious rumor cycle," Wiley declared, "I'm not going anywhere."

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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2016 Gop Primary 2016 Republican Primary Campaigns Gop Civil War Rick Wiley Scott Walker