Tag: criminal investigation

Criminal proceedings into loan given out by Wisconsin corporate welfare agency underway

Once again, a major political scandal is brewing in Wisconsin. This time, it involves loans given out to a company called Green Box NA by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), a corporate welfare agency in Wisconsin:

An indebted De Pere business owner will provide as detailed a list of assets and debtors to his former company’s court-appointed receiver within 10 days.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., Montreal-based Cliffton Equities Inc. and De Pere-area physician Dr. Marco Araujo sued Green Box NA and its president, Ronald Van Den Heuvel, on May 20 seeking repayment of more than $5.7 million in loans. They claim Green Box is near insolvency, worry it cannot cure its many defaults and suspect the company offered the same collateral to multiple financiers.

“Van Den Heuvel’s casual commingling of assets and collateral among his many entities gives rise to a real concern that he will dispose of plaintiff’s collateral improperly or that collateral may not exist,” the plaintiffs’ initial complaint states.

On Monday, Van Den Heuvel’s attorney John Petitjean told Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh that Van Den Heuvel cannot provide many documents court-appointed receiver Michael Polsky has requested because Brown County Sheriff’s Office deputies executed a search warrant at Green Box’s De Pere offices and removed five truckloads of documents and computer equipment from Green Box’s offices in the last month.

(emphasis mine)

Green Box NA received nearly $1.2 million in taxpayer-funded awards from the WEDC, including a $1.1 million loan and a $95,500 job training grant. Green Box NA has not made any payments on its loan since 2013, and the WEDC officially declared Green Box NA to be in default earlier this year. Green Box NA claims to be a sustainable energy company, but, in reality, it’s actually a waste gasification scheme.

Let’s not forget that:

  • Republican Wisconsin Governor and presidential candidate Scott Walker chaired the WEDC’s board at the time Green Box received the awards (Walker is no longer the WEDC board chairman)
  • Walker and Republicans in the Wisconsin State Legislature created the WEDC in 2011
  • Green Box NA received a $1.1 million loan mere months after the WEDC was created by Wisconsin Republicans in 2011
  • Van Den Heuvel refused to disclose previous lawsuits while filing the loan application
  • The WEDC failed to identify the lawsuits in a background check

Ron Van Den Heuvel, Green Box NA, and multiple other Van Den Heuvel companies have faced multiple civil lawsuits over, among other things, failure to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes and failure to pay both public and private creditors. Now, there’s apparently criminal proceedings into the Van Den Heuvel/Green Box NA ripoff of Wisconsin taxpayers. This could have all been prevented if it weren’t for the WEDC giving out corporate welfare to businesses, and doing a downright horrible job at it.

Oneida Eye has very detailed blog posts about Ron Van Den Heuvel’s long track record of financial troubles, legal troubles, and ripping off taxpayers here and here. They’ve been publishing great blog posts on the Green Box NA scandal for quite some time.

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Wisconsin legislators to Scott Walker: YOU’RE FIRED FROM YOUR OWN CORPORATE WELFARE AGENCY!!!

It’s official…the members of the Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Legislature’s Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee (JFC) have effectively fired Scott Walker from the corporate welfare agency he helped create, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC):

The state’s Republican-led budget committee Thursday retained legislative oversight of Gov. Scott Walker’s troubled job-creation agency, removed the governor from its board and pledged further changes later this fall in the wake of a recent critical audit and a (Wisconsin) State Journal investigation.

The Legislature’s powerful Joint Finance Committee voted along party lines for the changes to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., but only after rejecting a series of Democratic ideas to reform the agency and more than an hour of debate during which even Republicans conceded that the agency needs fixing.

“We know that it’s time to reform this,” said Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson. “We can’t do it in the middle of the budget.”

Knudson even made the sobering admission that he didn’t believe in the mission of the agency – to leverage state tax dollars to help create jobs.

Walker has been the chair of the WEDC’s board of directors since it began operations in 2011. It’s not clear who would replace Walker on the WEDC board, although it would all but certainly be another Republican.

For those of you who haven’t been following the WEDC debacle in Wisconsin, I’ll provide a quick refresher. Since its creation in 2011, the WEDC has, among other things, mismanaged money, violated laws, has had officials spend taxpayer money on items like college football tickets and alcoholic beverages, handed out tax breaks to companies that have shipped American jobs to foreign countries, and has given loans to companies that haven’t paid back a single penny of the money that was loaned to them. In fact, State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) have both called for a federal criminal investigation into the WEDC’s activities. For U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to not launch an investigation would mean that Lynch and the Obama Administration are complicit in a cover-up of at least possible violations of federal law at the WEDC, so Lynch better launch an investigation, preferably right now.

For the JFC to fire Walker from his own corporate welfare agency is an obvious example of damage control by the Republicans in the Wisconsin State Legislature. Preferably, I’d like to see these state-level corporate welfare agencies replaced by North Dakota-style state economic development banks, but Republicans and corporate Democrats are never going to support anything like that.

Hillary Clinton’s “Scott Walker” problem

Hillary Clinton has a “Scott Walker” problem on her hands.

Specifically, CNN is reporting that Hillary Clinton apparently intends to violate federal laws by raising money for a SuperPAC that is supporting her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination:

Hillary Clinton’s decision to personally raise money for a super PAC supporting her campaign is agitating her progressive critics, who see the move as further proof that the Democratic presidential frontrunner doesn’t share some of their values.

[…]

Within days of announcing her White House bid, Clinton had called out wealthy investors for paying too little in taxes and pledged to get big money out of politics. At the time, it was a welcome message for liberal Democrats who are uncomfortable with Clinton’s close ties to Wall Street and find the prominent role of super PACs in elections utterly distasteful.

But the recent revelation that Clinton will personally fundraise for a super PAC supporting her campaign — a decision to play by the rules of a system she has condemned as “dysfunctional” — has invited fresh eye-rolling. It has also exposed a core tension for Democrats, who have increasingly embraced super PACs at the same time that they decry the explosion of soft money in national politics.

The name of the SuperPAC in question is Priorities USA Action, a SuperPAC that was originally formed to support Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, but is now one of many pro-Hillary SuperPACs for the 2016 presidential election. No criminal charges have been filed against Hillary at this time, and there doesn’t appear to be any kind of criminal investigation into this matter at this time, apparently because the Priorities USA Action fundraisers featuring Hillary haven’t been held yet.

Hillary Clinton is a total hypocrite when it comes to money in politics. While she’s publicly complained about the ridiculous influence of big-money politics, she’s embracing that same ridiculous influence of big-money politics by intending to apparently violate the law to fundraise for one of the SuperPACs that are supporting her campaign. Hillary does not appear to be playing by the rules at all. In fact, she’s made it clear that she wants to apparently violate federal laws that prohibit illegal coordination between SuperPACs and candidates for federal elected office.

When I said that Hillary has a “Scott Walker” problem on her hands, what I mean by that is that Hillary intends to do is no different that what Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, himself an unofficial candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, did when he knew that he and several of his allies were going to face recall elections. Walker illegally solicited $700,000 from Gogebic Taconite, a mining company that has never actually operated a mine, but bought weaker environmental laws in Wisconsin, to the Wisconsin chapter of the right-wing political front group Club for Growth. Here’s how The Progressive magazine’s Rebecca Kemble reported that story when documents from the ongoing, but stalled, John Doe II investigation into Walker and his allies showing that Walker illegally solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars to benefit a right-wing group were released last year:

Even though all limits on the size of direct campaign donations are removed for candidates facing recall elections in Wisconsin, the Walker campaign still found it necessary to hide the source of the millions it solicited during 2011-2012 to keep him and his legislative allies in power.

According to emails between Walker campaign staff, the Wisconsin Club for Growth was the dark money clearinghouse that apparently coordinated “issue advocacy and “correct messaging” with the Walker campaign. Much of the money that came in the WiCFG door went back out to other political operatives like Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Citizens for a Strong America and the Jobs First Coalition to back Walker and Republican state senators facing recall or special elections in 2012.

GTac bought weaker environmental laws in Wisconsin by supporting anti-environment politicians so they could build an iron ore mine in Northern Wisconsin in violation of Native American treaties, but GTac recently decided to scrap the project entirely.

Hillary Clinton is just as unethical as the odious Scott Walker is, and that’s why progressive-minded Democrats can’t afford Hillary being our party’s presidential nominee.

Under Scott Walker’s failed leadership, Chicago-style pay-to-play politics is alive and well in Wisconsin

According to a Yahoo News report by Michael Isikoff, John Menard, Jr., the wealthiest individual in Wisconsin and founder of the Menards chain of big-box hardware stores, donated a whopping $1.5 million to Wisconsin Club for Growth, an right-wing political organization that apparently violated campaign finance laws and is currently subject to an ongoing criminal investigation, in support of Scott Walker’s efforts to fend off a 2012 recall attempt against him:

John Menard Jr. is widely known as the richest man in Wisconsin. A tough-minded, staunchly conservative 75-year-old billionaire, he owns a highly profitable chain of hardware stores throughout the Midwest. He’s also famously publicity-shy — rarely speaking in public or giving interviews.

So a little more than three years ago, when Menard wanted to back Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — and help advance his pro-business agenda — he found the perfect way to do so without attracting any attention: He wrote more than $1.5 million in checks to a pro-Walker political advocacy group that pledged to keep its donors secret, three sources directly familiar with the transactions told Yahoo News.

In return for donating to a pro-Walker front group, Menard got corporate welfare and weaker environmental regulations:

Menard’s previously unreported six-figure contributions to the Wisconsin Club for Growth — a group that spent heavily to defend Walker during a bitter 2012 recall election — seem to have paid off for the businessman and his company. In the past two years, Menard’s company has been awarded up to $1.8 million in special tax credits from a state economic development corporation that Walker chairs, according to state records.

And in his five years in office, Walker’s appointees have sharply scaled back enforcement actions by the state Department of Natural Resources — a top Menard priority. The agency had repeatedly clashed with Menard and his company under previous governors over citations for violating state environmental laws and had levied a $1.7 million fine against Menard personally, as well as his company, for illegally dumping hazardous wastes.

This is the kind of corrupt, pay-to-play politics that one would normally associate with Chicago, but has become far too commonplace in Wisconsin under the failed leadership of Scott Walker and his Republican cohorts. It’s 100% clear to me that John Menard bought influence in the Walker Administration in Wisconsin by donating money to an outside group that supports Walker’s political campaigns and apparently violated campaign finance laws by accepting money that Walker illegally solicited from the mining company Gogebic Taconite (GTac).

If elected president, Scott Walker will bring corrupt, Chicago-style pay-to-play politics to the White House, which is something America simply can’t afford.

Rahm Emanuel crony George Cardenas allegedly had public employees campaign for him on city time

In addition to an ongoing federal criminal investigation, Chicago (IL) Alderman George Cardenas of the 12th Ward, a close ally of embattled Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, is now facing a lawsuit in the Cook County state circuit court from Maria Chavez, a City of Chicago employee who was terminated after she reported Cardenas’s use of city property and employees to campaign for re-election to law enforcement.

Here’s the details of why Cardenas is under federal criminal investigation from the state lawsuit filed against him by Chavez (Chavez is identified by her first name, Maria, in the lawsuit):

12. Throughout her employment with the City of Chicago at the 12th Ward Public Service Office, Maria received multiple positive employment reviews as well as letters of appreciation from local citizens, non-profit organizations and businesses for her efforts for the citizens of the 12th Ward.

13.  During the course of the February 2011 Municipal General Election, in which citizens of the City of Chicago elect municipal officers including Mayor, Clerk, Treasurer and Alderman, the City of Chicago’s Office of the Legislative Inspector General received complaints against Cardenas related to allegations that Cardenas was using city property, namely the 12th Ward Public Service Office, and city employees, namely the 12th Ward Public Service Office’s employees, to gather registered voters’ signatures and notarize petition sheets seeking the nomination of Cardenas as 12th Ward Alderman.

14. The City’s Legislative Inspector General’s Office interviewed most but not all of the 12th Ward Public Service Office’s employees.  News of the investigation became publically known in mid-2013 through news and radio media reports.

If it is true that George Cardenas used city property and employees for his re-election campaign in violation of federal, state, and/or local laws, than Chavez did the right thing by reporting that to the authorities and Chavez should end his re-election campaign and resign from the Chicago City Council immediately. In any case, voters in the 12th Ward of Chicago should vote for Pete DeMay, Cardenas’s opponent, in the upcoming city council election. DeMay will fight to rebuild Chicago’s middle class.