ICYMI: One Wisconsin Institute Report Details Continuing Failures of Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

In Response to Report and Ongoing Scandals, Democrats Propose Reforms While GOP Seeks to Cut and Run

MADISON, Wis. — Updated research by One Wisconsin Institute analyzes four years of failure by the quasi-private Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), created by Gov. Scott Walker and supported by state legislative Republicans. The report details ties between WEDC award recipients and Walker campaign donors, as well as businesses whose owners, directors or employees contributed to the campaign of Scott Walker receiving over sixty percent of dollars awarded by the jobs agency.

Key findings of the One Wisconsin Institute report, “WEDC: Four Years of Failure”, include:

  • Gov. Walker received more than $2.1 million in campaign contributions from individuals with ties to WEDC award recipients, who in turn received more than 60 percent of the state’s economic development awards
  • WEDC economic development dollars are not resulting in promised job creation
  • The majority of awards made by WEDC have not included any job creation or retention goals
  • The agency has awarded funds to outsourcers and promotes outsourcers as “success” stories on its website

One Wisconsin Institute Executive Director Scot Ross noted that in response to the report, continuing critical audits and media reporting about rampant mismanagement at WEDC various legislative proposals have surfaced. However, he ripped WEDC Board of Directors and Budget and Finance Committee member Sen. Rick Gudex and fellow Republicans refusal to support meaningful reforms.

“After four years, the verdict on Walker’s flagship jobs agency is in and it has been a complete failure on meeting promised job creation goals. It’s only success appears to be in directing awards to Scott Walker’s campaign donors,” said Ross. “But instead of demanding common sense reforms like not sending tax dollars to companies that outsource Wisconsin jobs, legislators like Rick Gudex are proposing to cut and run.”

Republicans, despite warnings about scandals and the lack of accountability and transparency in other states who similarly privatized economic development, voted to eliminate the state Department of Commerce in favor of Gov. Walker’s privatized WEDC. In response to the long string of scandals, Gudex is now authoring legislation to remove himself and other legislators from their oversight positions on the WEDC board in what according to Ross is a transparent attempt to limit his own political liability for the failure of WEDC.

Making matters worse, Gudex has also refused to support legislation introduced by Sen. Dave Hansen and others to halt the practice of taxpayer funded assistance going to businesses that outsource Wisconsin jobs. The legislation, Senate Bill 211 and Assembly Bill 304, would bar outsourcers of jobs from being eligible for any state tax credits, grants or other assistance for five years after they shipped Wisconsin jobs out of state or out of the country.

“Just because the corruption, cronyism and incompetence of WEDC is embarrassing to Scott Walker on the presidential campaign trail doesn’t mean state legislators should ignore what’s occurred and not try to fix it. Sen. Gudex and his fellow Republicans need to remember they’re supposed to be working for us, not covering Scott Walker’s backside,” concluded Ross.

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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.