MADISON, Wis. — In a dramatic reversal, and despite past assurances to the contrary, Gov. Scott Walker and his lapdog Republican led state legislature are set to gut the state civil service that helps prevent cronyism and corruption. One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross blasted the proposal as opening the door to infecting other state agencies with the rampant cronyism, corruption and incompetence of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), where civil service protections were removed.
“We have gotten a preview of what happens in Wisconsin when Gov. Walker and his gang strip civil service protections away, and it has been a disaster,” commented Ross. “State employees lost civil service protections when WEDC was created, and it has been plagued with unprecedented cronyism, corruption and incompetence ever since.”
A report by One Wisconsin Institute exposes the four years of failure embodied by the quasi-private Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation detailing ties between WEDC award recipients and Walker campaign donors and finding businesses whose owners, directors or employees contributed to the campaign of Scott Walker received over sixty percent of dollars awarded by the jobs agency.
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.
Media reports have uncovered state tax dollars being doled out to campaign contributors at WEDC under political pressure former high ranking Walker political appointees. In one instance a risky $500,000 loan was given to a business owned by a donor who gave $10,000, the maximum allowed by law, to Walker’s 2010 campaign for Governor. The business went under and the loan was never repaid. Subsequent investigations have shown basic safeguards for issuing loans were ignored and supporting documents were riddled with false or incomplete information.
Adding to the appalling potential impact of dismantling civil service protections is the dishonesty of this latest attack on clean and open government in Wisconsin. Gov. Walker and high ranking Republican legislative leaders vowed repeatedly the state civil service laws would remain in place as they sought to eviscerate workplace protections for state workers in 2011.
Ross concluded, “Cronyism, corruption and incompetence have been the hallmarks of Gov. Walker’s administration, aided and abetted by a lapdog Republican-controlled legislature. Now they’re proposing to gut the last line of defense preventing Tammany Hall style political patronage from running amok in state government. Wisconsin taxpayers, beware.”