Governor Walker: Hey! Don't Worry About It! WEDC Shame

By Robert Miranda, Editor, Wisconsin Spanish Journal

June 30, 2015

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has a hot mess on his hands. His signature jobs-making agency, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, or WEDC, has become an albatross riding along in a repo man sought Maserati.

But before we indulge in the notion that we too can possibly have Wisconsin taxpayers buy each of us a Maserati, allow me to bring you up to speed on what WEDC is and why you should pay attention to what can be potentially Governor Scott Walker’s biggest scandal to date.

WEDC was created in 2011 by Governor Walker, who decided to replace the Wisconsin Department of Commerce with the WEDC. Why did he do this? Well, Walker, who promised that he would create 250,000 jobs in the state his first term in office, created WEDC to help him achieve that lofty goal.

But as anticipated by those who saw Walker’s action as nothing more than a pipe dream, Walker did not reach his goal of 250,000 promised jobs. 

However WEDC, the agency that was supposed to help Walker create jobs instead created the hot mess for Walker I previously hinted at. 

What did Walker’s WEDC achieve? In May 2013, an audit from the Legislative Audit Bureau reported at the time that WEDC had troubles it could not ignore. The audit found that between 2011 and 2013, WEDC gave out $124.4 million in awards to various corporations without a formal review by staff or underwriters.  Underwriters? You know, the people you wait to hear from who tell you to either hit the road or welcome you to the party after you apply for a home loan. 

But don’t get your undies in a bunch. Walker it seems was clever enough to not set up fiscal checks and balances procedures when he created WEDC. Checks and balances?! Who needs stinking checks and balances!? 

Indeed, our Governor had things set up so nicely that, at the time WEDC was christened, WEDC didn’t mandate staff reviews of awards it was giving out because, it appears, the awards were all approved by the agency’s bipartisan WEDC Board of Directors. 

Hmmm….you say? Yes, I say.

This amateurish administrative blunder allowed for awards to go to companies that sat on the brink of ruin. For example, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MJS) reported that a Milwaukee-based company called Building Committee, Inc., got a $500,000 loan after falsely saying it hadn’t been sued for five years. MJS found that this company did default on a loan and later dissolved. But here’s the nugget that caught the attention of political pundits who don’t support Walker: the company’s owner had given $10,000 to Walker’s first gubernatorial campaign. BINGO!

But wait a minute! This rabbit hole gets even more interesting. Turns out that Walker’s team pushed very hard to get the Building Committee, Inc., this loan so that the owner of the company, the guy who gave Walker the $10,000 campaign donation, can keep his precious Maserati and several other luxury cars.
http://m.jsonline.com//statepolitics/wedc-backed-firm-after-learning-state-money-was-for-luxury-car-debts-b99525593z1-309866451.html

Since this revelation, reports from newspapers all over the state that WEDC did not formally review more than 25 other loans totaling over $123 million dollars. Wow! 

Imagine you being able to walk into a bank. No money. In bankruptcy. About to go under. You then see an opportunity. Find $10,000 (LMAO). Donate that money to Scott Walker’s campaign for president and Voila! You’re approved for a WEDC loan to spend the money as you please. Oh! By the way! That string tied to the loan reminding you that that money is supposed to be for creating jobs, well, that’s just a technicality. 

Hey! Don’t worry about it!

Well, luckily for Wisconsin taxpayers, two Democratic members of the WEDC Board of Directors are not biting the line—”move on folks! There’s nothing to see here.” 

In fact, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) called for a full investigation at WEDC and have requested the assistance of Attorney General Brad Schimel in facilitating the release of full records and documentation on any unsecured WEDC loans, WEDC loans issued over concerns of underwriters, or WEDC loans where underwriting documentation is missing or was not complete.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-scott-walker-jobs-agency-20150619-story.html

Scott Walker’s failed flagship jobs agency gave out over $124 million worth of taxpayer-funded economic development assistance without review or approval of an underwriter.

Shazam!

And what did Wisconsin taxpayers get back for the Building Committee, Inc.  and all the other companies who received loans without formal review?

A lousy 2,100 jobs were actually created as a result of the awards provided to the 24 plus companies that got $124 million dollars, courtesy of Walker’s corporate welfare program known as WEDC.

Pathetic puts all this mildly. 

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) released a statement that concluded:
“Instead of again misleading the public, we would rather WEDC and the Governor focus their energies on quickly getting us all the records we requested – including any awards they made over the objections of underwriters, Community Development Block Grant activity under WEDC and now the Department of Administration, and details of loans under $200,000 that were approved without staff review.”
Hey Governor! We are worried about it!

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Last edited by Tyler Schuster.   Page last modified on July 01, 2015

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