Gov. Walker’s Economic Development Agency Under the Microscope

‘Record Shows He’s Enriched His Cronies While Failing to Deliver for the Rest of Us’

MADISON, Wis. and DES MOINES — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has come under scrutiny by media nationally and in Iowa recently for a $62 million-plus award of state funds to the retail outlet Kohl’s doled out under his watch as chair of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross noted that more transactions by Walker’s WEDC deserve scrutiny, including over $86 million in state economic assistance to businesses that outsourced jobs to foreign countries.

As Walker treks to Iowa again this weekend as he auditions for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination, Progress Iowa Executive Director Matt Sinovic commented, “It’s the time of year where a lot of politicians are coming to Iowa trying to win our support. But we need to take a good hard look at what they’ve done too.”

According to a One Wisconsin Now analysis of WEDC grant awards and federal Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) filings, since 2011 the quasi-private state economic development agency, whose board is chaired by Gov. Walker and whose key staff are hired by him, has approved over $86 million in state tax credits, grants and other aid to businesses that have outsourced jobs to foreign countries.

Ross noted there’s a vast disconnect between Walker’s actions as governor, overseeing millions in state aid going to outsourcers of American jobs, while on the campaign trail for president alleging his most recent immigration flip flop is being made out of concern for “American jobs and American wages.”

Progress Iowa’s Sinovic commented, “When Scott Walker was in Iowa in March he tried to tell us that he’s on our side on the critical economic issue of renewable fuel, despite a long history of doing and saying the exact opposite. Now he’s saying he cares about American jobs and American wages but we find out in Wisconsin he doled out millions to companies that were shipping jobs to foreign countries.”

Independent audits of Gov. Walker’s WEDC found an agency plagued with incompetence and questionable practices. The agency lost track of millions of dollars in state loans to businesses, failed to confirm aid recipients were fulfilling the terms of their agreements, failed to follow basic accounting practices and even used taxpayer funds to purchase liquor, football tickets and iTunes gift cards.

A report released by One Wisconsin Now, W is for WEDC, found that, in addition to providing aid to job outsourcers, a majority of aid went to businesses whose owners and employees contributed to help Gov. Walker’s campaigns, funds failed to produce promised job creation and recipients included companies engaged in health and safety violations, mass layoffs and conflicts of interest.

Ross concluded, “The cronyism, corruption and incompetence of Gov. Walker’s WEDC is a big reason Wisconsin’s economy is such a mess — last in the Midwest on jobs, lagging wages and a middle class that’s shrinking faster than any other state in the nation. With Scott Walker you know he’ll say anything to win an election, so you have to also pay attention to what he’s done. On jobs and the economy, the record shows he’s enriched his cronies while failing to deliver for the rest of us.”

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One Wisconsin Now is a statewide communications network specializing in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.