MADISON, Wis. — One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross blasted the latest fast track Republican efforts to gut state anti-corruption laws, saying it is a prescription for more of the kind of cronyism, corruption and incompetence Wisconsin has endured from Gov. Scott Walker’s Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).
“Removing anti-corruption protections from Wisconsin’s civil service laws is an invitation for more scandal, more incompetence and more cronyism in state government – something we have seen all too much of in recent years,” said Ross. “Four letters provide a vivid example of what happens when anti-corruption protections are removed: W-E-D-C.”
Despite multiple assurances from Gov. Walker and Republican legislative leaders to the contrary they are now proposing to change Wisconsin’s civil service laws, first adopted to protect state workers over a century ago. A bill on the legislative fast track, Senate Bill 285, would allow Republicans to pack state government with political cronies by replacing objective measures for qualifying for appointments with resumes and centralize hiring in the state Department of Administration, headed by a political appointee. In addition, political appointees in agencies would be able to lay off employees without regard to seniority and dole out bonuses at their discretion, promoting favoritism for cronies.
Ross noted that in creating Gov. Walker’s WEDC – the state poster child for the cronyism, corruption and incompetence of his administration – civil service protections were stripped from employees. A report by One Wisconsin Institute exposes the scope of the four years of failure at WEDC, 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, and failed to follow basic accounting practices.
Meanwhile media reports uncovered how a risky $500,000 loan that never should have been given found it’s way to a $10,000 contributor to Gov. Walker’s 2010 campaign under direct pressure from his Secretary of the Department of Administration and his then chief of staff. The business has gone under, the loan was never repaid and subsequent investigations have shown basic safeguards for issuing loans were ignored and supporting documents were riddled with false or incomplete information.
Ross concluded by asking legislators to ponder one simple question in their deliberations on the bill, “Do you really want more of this? Because the people of Wisconsin deserve better from their government.”