With his hand out, Torinus criticizes Recovery

Readers of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel business section will know the name John Torinus.

Torinus seems to be a busy man in the business community: he is the current chair and former CEO of Serigraph, Inc.; a current board member of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce—our state’€™s largest pro-corporate, anti-public investment lobby group; and a past board member and chair of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance—the state’€™s most prominent pro-corporate, anti-public investment, tax research group.Torinus also regularly pens pro-corporate, anti-public investment columns for MJS, never hesitating to condemn any and all steps toward ensuring corporate accountability to attain fairness in paying for Wisconsin’€™s quality public services.

Last year, when Gov. Doyle and the Democratically-controlled legislature closed the ‘€œLas Vegas Loophole,’€ Torinus complained, ‘€œdamage to the business climate was inflicted when the Democrats instituted combined reporting to end what they saw as a loophole and to fix the deficit in the current budget. That alienated many of the largest employers in the state.’€ But don’€™t blame current legislators for alienating Torinus’€™s company. It left decades ago.

Serigraph Inc. has been incorporated in Delaware since 1987, according to Wisconsin’€™s Department of Financial Institutions and confirmed through Delaware’€™s Division of Corporations. Accordingly, the non-partisan research group the Institute for Wisconsin’€™s Future identified Serigraph, Inc. as one of the numerous companies represented on WMC’€™s board of directors that paid no Wisconsin corporate tax in 2003 and 2004. As a sidenote, Serigraph’€™s Delaware address is the exact same address used by a business owned by Middleton developer Terrence Wall, another prominent voice against corporate taxes, and current Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.

At the beginning of this year, Torinus devoted his regular column to laying out lessons learned by businesses from the economic crash of the last two years. Among them, he says ‘€œlifelines for businesses are generally not available, with the exception of government guarantees of small-business loans’€ but then strangely adds ‘€œGovernment will bail out big corporations, but not the rest of us.’€

Strange, not only in that he seems to contradict himself, but also because by mid-January Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Gov. Jim Doyle (D) announced that nine Wisconsin businesses would receive $64 million in guaranteed loans made available through stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Among the nine businesses is Serigraph, Inc. with an $8.5 million loan.

If Torinus is at all grateful for the government-backed loan, it sure doesn’€™t show. In his latest piece, Torinus once again used his regular column space to bemoan job creation through government initiatives, conveniently leaving out the fact that he had just received an $8.5 million guaranteed loan. With his heavy reliance on anecdotes from his business buddies at WMC and ‘€œa nephew’€, one would think he could at least let taxpayers know that his own company just benefitted from a government program he so often rails against.

Nevertheless, Torinus wrote that the ‘€œgovernment stimulus flunks at job creation’€ and wrapped up a column writing, ‘€œIn short, with survival in mind, embattled Wisconsin companies will keep guards up, worried about what outside forces – including government – will be doing to them, not for them.’€

So I have to ask, Mr. Torinus, what is that $8.5 million doing TO your business?

Oh yeah, and you’€™re welcome.

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Cody currently oversees online communications, web development, and graphic design at One Wisconsin Now & the Institute, having served previously as Deputy Research Director.