Will New WMC Head Thank Democrats for $2.6 Million in Funds, Decade-Best Earnings?

Chair's Company Received Recovery Act Funds, Fourth Quarter Earnings Best in 10 Years

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MADISON, Wis. — Newly-minted Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce chair Thomas Howatt, Chief Executive Officer of Wausau Paper Corporation, has yet to issue public thanks to Democrats controlling the state legislature and the U.S. Congress who enacted policies to both provide his company with $2.6 million in Recovery Act funds and coinciding with the company’s best fourth-quarter earnings in a decade.

“Will Thomas Howatt put his thank you to Democratic legislators, the governor and the president on WMC letterhead, or just on Wausau Paper’s?” asked Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. “Perhaps it’s just an oversight by WMC Chair Howatt to make that public thank you to the progressives who helped his company.”

According to Wednesday’s Wausau Daily Herald, Wausau Paper reported $9.2 million in fourth-quarter earnings, compared with a $1.8 million net loss a year ago – the final months of the failed Bush administration. [Wausau Daily Herald, 2/10/10]

In December, two of Wausau Paper’s mills received Recovery Act funds, including $1.97 million for its Rhinelander plant and $700,000 for its Mosinee operation. The announcement by Governor Doyle was part of a $14.5 million grant provided to nine Wisconsin businesses for energy efficiency and renewable energy under the Recovery Act. [NewsoftheNorth.net, 12/10/09]

Federal and state efforts by Democrats to pass the Recovery Act legislation, as well as its administration in Wisconsin, were successful despite unanimous opposition by Wisconsin’s state and federal Republican legislators.

“Howatt’s actions in the next 48 hours will say a lot about his credibility and the credibility of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce,” said Ross. “Is WMC representing businesses, or as many argue, is it nothing but a well-funded shill for the Republican Party.”

WMC has criticized a number of state legislative actions in the past year, including the closing of the Las Vegas corporate loophole and the first income tax increase for those earning more than $225,000 in over 40 years.

Howatt, who according to figures compiled for One Wisconsin Now’s WMC Watch has made 95.5 percent of his political donations to Republicans, pledged WMC would take a bipartisan approach to its efforts when he assumed leadership of the state’s most powerful corporate lobby this year. Howatt has already contributed $1,250 to the gubernatorial campaign of Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker – a fierce opponent of the Recovery Act.

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One Wisconsin Now specializes in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.