Tag: Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

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.

Advertisements

An open letter to America about Scott Walker from an Illinoisan who has blogged about Walker

My fellow Americans,

Sometime tomorrow, Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker will formally launch his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

As someone who has blogged about Walker on a regular basis for the past few years, I’ve come to know Walker as a horrible politician who, with the help of his political allies in the Wisconsin State Legislature, has destroyed Wisconsin’s economy, reputation, and quality of life. In a sane world, Walker’s record as Governor of Wisconsin would be an immediate disqualifier for any future campaign for public office. To give you a description of Walker’s style of politics, if one combined the worst elements of Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, Herbert Hoover, Jerry Falwell, and Grover Norquist, you’d get Walker.

Since taking office as Wisconsin’s chief executive four and a half years ago, Scott Walker has, among other things:

  • Stripped collective bargaining rights from public employee unions
  • Enacted wage theft laws allowing non-union workers at unionized workplaces to refuse to join a labor union and/or pay union dues despite receiving union-negotiated wages and benefits
  • Drastically cut the pay of public employees
  • Made it harder for Wisconsin women to seek legal recourse if they’ve been denied equal pay for the same work as their male counterparts
  • Established a corporate welfare agency in Wisconsin that is rife with corruption, cronyism, and mismanagement
  • Cut funding from public elementary, secondary, and higher education
  • Expanded Wisconsin’s school voucher programs that funnel taxpayer money to religious schools
  • Made it harder for Wisconsin women to get the reproductive health care they want
  • Given out tax breaks to big businesses and the wealthy
  • Weakened environmental protections
  • Arrested people for singing
  • Enacted discriminatory voter ID laws designed to keep Wisconsinites from voting
  • Stripped local control from counties and communities in Wisconsin that usually vote for Democratic candidates
  • Openly compared the people of Wisconsin to terrorists
  • Blatantly violated campaign finance laws
  • Given wealthy right-wingers and big business interests virtually complete control of Wisconsin’s state government

Walker’s policies and actions have, among other things:

  • Driven down the wages of Wisconsinites
  • Stifled economic growth in Wisconsin
  • Has made Wisconsin one of the most corrupt states in the entire country
  • Lowered the percentage of middle-class Wisconsin households
  • Left Wisconsin with severe budget problems
  • Made Wisconsin the laughingstock of America

However, we don’t live in a sane world. Walker has been elected Governor of Wisconsin three times in a four-year period against weak, uninspiring corporate Democrats. I believe that, if Democrats do not nominate Bernie Sanders for president, Scott Walker will become the next President of the United States, and, given how he’s wrecked Wisconsin over the past four and a half years, that is a truly scary thought. If Walker is elected president, what little remains of the American middle class and American sovereignty will be completely destroyed, big business interests will completely take over the federal government at every level, America’s federal budget deficit and national debt will grow massively, social safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare will be privatized or outright eliminated, America’s economy will crash again, and corruption will run amok in the federal government.

You can read about Scott Walker’s horrible track record here, here, here, here, and here, among many other places. Furthermore, if you ever get in touch with these people either in person or by other means, you can ask people like Lori Compas, Wendi Kent, Karen Vieth, Kati Walsh, Chris “Capper” Liebenthal, Zach Wisniewski, Kelda Roys, Chris Taylor, Melissa Sargent, Kathleen Vinehout, Rebecca Kemble, Fred Risser, Kelly Westlund, Barbara With, Randy Bryce, Sara Goldrick-Rab, Heather DuBois Bourenane, Ingrid Laas, Sachi Komai, Laura Komai, Jenni Dye, JoCasta Zamarripa, Laura Manriquez, Mandela Barnes, LaTonya Johnson, Angela Walker, Christine Sinicki, Lisa Mux, and Mike McCabe, just to name a few, about what they think about Scott Walker…they’re all Wisconsinites, and they know how horrible Scott Walker’s policies and actions have been for Wisconsin.

As a lifelong Illinoisan and proud progressive, I would walk through fire to vote for the Democratic opponent to Scott Walker if he were to be nominated by the Republican Party for the office of President of the United States if that’s what it took for me to get to the polls.

Sincerely,
Aaron Camp
Westville, Illinois

Martha Laning makes a huge impact in her first week as Wisconsin Democratic chairwoman

It’s only been a week since Martha Laning was elected Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW), but she has already made a huge impact in Wisconsin politics by being, to my pleasant surprise, a critic of some forms of corporate welfare and a supporter of good government.

On Thursday, Laning sent this letter officially asking far-right Republican Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel to do his job by helping to facilitate the release of official Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) records. As uncovered by audits, the WEDC, a state corporate welfare agency in Wisconsin created by Scott Walker and Republicans in the Wisconsin State Legislature in 2011, has repeatedly refused to comply with federal and state laws, as well as mismanaged Wisconsinites’ taxpayer money. While I’d never support the campaign of someone like Schimel for any public office, it would be the right thing for Schimel to help release records pertaining to the morbidly corrupt and incompetent WEDC, because Wisconsinites should have the right to know how their taxpayer dollars are being spent.

That’s not the first time Laning has railed against some forms of corporate welfare and publicly supported good government policies.

In this interview on Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) stations across Wisconsin, Laning outlined the Democratic strategy in Wisconsin for the November 2016 elections and beyond, as well as gave some of her own opinions on various political issues in Wisconsin and nationally. Laning emphasized messaging heavily in the WPR interview; in fact, Laning pointed out a major flaw in the Democratic messaging that has been used in recent Wisconsin election cycles: many Wisconsinites don’t know what the Democratic Party stands for! Additionally, Laning publicly supported Move to Amend, an organized political movement that is pushing for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution designed to remove the undue influence of money from our nation’s political system, and, to my pleasant surprise, sharply criticized a state tax break for Wisconsin manufacturers that all but eliminated taxes on Wisconsin manufacturers, even emphasizing how tax revenue funds things that are commonplace in society, such as roads, the judicial system, police departments, and fire departments. Regarding the 2018 gubernatorial election in Wisconsin, Laning strongly suggested that “several” potential candidates would at least consider running for Governor of Wisconsin as a Democrat, although she declined to name any potential candidates. Laning also strongly implied that she would prefer whoever Wisconsin Democrats nominate for governor in 2018 to emphasize “building strong communities”, “opportunity for all”, and “fairness”.

Needless to say, this is not what I expected from Martha Laning when she was elected to lead the Democratic Party in a critical swing state. I was expecting Laning to be a backbencher of sorts as DPW Chair, mostly working behind the scenes and rarely issuing public statements of her own about political issues. Instead, Laning has, to my pleasant surprise, publicly railed against preferential tax breaks for large businesses and has strongly supported restoring Wisconsin’s once-proud tradition of good government. Will I agree with every single thing Martha Laning does as DPW Chair? Likely not, as I’ve never agreed with anyone 100% of the time. Do I think that Martha Laning will be a wonderful DPW Chair? She’s certainly off to a great start!

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.

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.

CONFIRMED: Plexus shipped jobs to foreign countries after being awarded tax breaks from Scott Walker’s WEDC

The administration of Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is giving me a ton of material for my upcoming book about corporate welfare that I intend to release sometime in February of next year.

Greg Neumann, the host of a Wisconsin political talk show called Capitol City Sunday on WKOW-TV, the ABC affiliate in Madison, Wisconsin, confirmed that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) had given millions of dollars in tax credits to Plexus Corporation, a Neenah, Wisconsin-based manufacturer that makes electronic components, after they had laid off 116 workers at its Neenah plant and moved the jobs to a foreign country.

Earlier this year, Neumann originally reported that Plexus had announced in July of 2012 that they laid off 116 of its Neenah workers after having been awarded $2 million in tax credits from the WEDC in 2011, as well $15 million in tax credits in 2012.

Neumann’s follow-up report noted that, according to an official petition filed with the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, Plexus actually laid off the 116 workers in May of 2012:

In July of 2012, Plexus announced it was letting go of 116 workers from its facility in Neenah.  But the layoffs actually came a few months before that.  A Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) petition filed with the U.S. Department of Labor on behalf of the impacted workers states the layoffs were actually implemented by Plexus on May 7, 2012.

Additionally, Neumann reported that the laid-off workers are still receiving federal trade adjustment benefits:

The review concluded only that Plexus is no longer shifting such production, but did in 2012 when it laid off 116 workers from its Neenah facility.

Still the TAA benefits are being allowed to continue flowing to the impacted workers. According to the new ruling, the criteria for benefits has been met because “a significant number or proportion of the workers in such workers’ firm have become totally or partially separated, or are threatened to become totally or partially separated.”

The ruling goes on to state that the production of printed circuit boards by Plexus has “decreased absolutely” and because “customer imports of articles like or directly competitive with the printed circuit board assemblies produced by Plexus Corporation have increased.”

The ruling states those imports also contributed to further workers losing their jobs at Plexus.

It has been confirmed without a shadow of a doubt that Plexus was awarded tax breaks from the WEDC, Scott Walker’s corporate welfare agency, after Plexus had shipped American jobs to foreign countries. This proves that Scott Walker’s corporate welfare agenda has done nothing but waste Wisconsinites’ taxpayer money and effectively ship their taxpayer money to foreign countries.