MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), whose board Walker chairs, are under scrutiny for a risky $500,000 loan to a $10,000 donor to Gov. Walker’s 2010 campaign. Fellow WEDC board member Sen. Rick Gudex refused comment, but his chief of staff called requests for an investigation of the latest instance of WEDC cronyism, corruption and incompetence a “knee-jerk reaction.”
One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross called on Gudex to speak up, “Sen. Gudex may want to hide and hope this latest scandal blows over. But that would be cowardly, and it is irresponsible to remain silent in the face of yet another WEDC scandal and doing nothing amounts to an endorsement of the cronyism, corruption and incompetence rampant at WEDC.”
According to recent press reports high ranking aides to Gov. Walker personally lobbied WEDC on behalf of a donor who gave Walker the maximum $10,000 contribution in his 2010 gubernatorial campaign. They secured a $500,000 loan for the business of the donor, which has never been repaid. Basic safeguards for issuing loans were ignored and supporting documents that served as the basis for the loan were riddled with false or incomplete information.
An analysis of WEDC grants and loans by One Wisconsin Now released in 2014 found that a disproportionate share of state economic assistance was going to businesses whose owners and employees donated to Gov. Walker’s campaign. It also appears that not all contributions from recipients of WEDC aid went directly to Walker’s campaign. A report earlier this year uncovered a secret $1.5 million donation to a Walker aligned group from Wisconsin’s richest man before his business snagged $1.8 million in tax credits courtesy of the Walker administration’s WEDC.
Ross noted that concerns about this very kind of corruption and cronyism were raised at the time Gov. Walker and the GOP controlled legislature rammed through legislation to reduce accountability and privatize the operations of the former state Commerce Department. Turmoil among staff and a series of scathing reports from the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau detailing downright incompetence in failing to observe basic business and accounting standards to using tax dollars to buy sports tickets, liquor and gift cards have followed.
He concluded, “Gov Walker running for President and trying to cover his political backside with what is at best willful ignorance of what his top aides are doing to benefit a political crony is one thing, but Sen. Gudex owes us better. Getting to the bottom of what’s going on with our tax dollars and cracking down on an agency run amok isn’t a knee jerk reaction, it’s doing your job.”