Monday, February 22, 2016

Apparently in Wisconsin, "fraud" is only bad when you lack money

In a Sunday piece that gave an overview of some of the massive amount of legislation that was jammed through the Assembly last week, the Wisconsin State Journal’s Matt DeFour noted that several of these bills will not be voted on in the State Senate. Since Assembly Speaker Robbin' Vos plans to put the members of the lower house on a 10 1/2 month paid vacation (nice gig, eh?), that means these bills will die and have to wait until at least this time next year to be passed all over again and made into law.

Among those is a bill involving an organization we haven't heard from in a while, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). And as DeFour's report mentions, that slush fund will be allowed to continue in no small part because of the lack of action by WEDC Board member and retiring State Sen. Rick Gudex.
Gudex doesn’t plan to hold a public hearing on a bill that would make defrauding WEDC a felony, all but assuring the bill won’t come up for a Senate vote after passing the Assembly on a voice vote. Gudex had concerns the bill would discourage legitimate businesses from applying for economic assistance for fear of being punished for unintentionally misleading the agency.

The proposal was introduced after the Wisconsin State Journal reported on a $500,000 WEDC loan to a struggling Milwaukee construction company that has not been repaid. The company’s owner included misinformation on his application and told creditors he would repay debt with the state funds, but has not been charged with a crime.

The Assembly version of the bill was sponsored by Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Powers Lake, while the Senate version was sponsored by a Democrat, Sen. Dave Hansen, of Green Bay. The Senate version of another Kerkman bill, making unemployment insurance fraud a felony, has received a public hearing, giving it a better chance of passage in the Senate.
And given that Sen. Gudex is quitting to “return to the private sector”, I wonder if he and his buddies in Fondy have a few WEDC grants in mind for future years? NAAH! I’m thinking too cynically, that can’t be what Gudex has in mind by burying the WEDC fraud bill.

Oh, and let’s talk about that unemployment fraud bill, which does seem to be likely to go through the State Senate, unlike the WEDC fraud bill. The bill seems to define “fraud” as information filled out incorrectly when unemployment is applied for, whether the applicant knows it’s incorrect or not. Now flash back to what was said in the Assembly as they passed this bill last week.
Despite Dems arguing an unemployment insurance fraud bill is focused on the wrong part of the system, the GOP legislation passed via voice vote.

Dem Reps. Chris Taylor, of Madison, and Christine Sinicki, of Milwaukee, argued lawmakers should be focused on simplifying the unemployment insurance forms people have to fill out rather than on the people who often struggle to complete the paperwork correctly.

"It's almost a novel," Sinicki said. "People are bound to make a mistake."
So Rick Gudex and other WisGOP Senators don’t want to pass a bill making WEDC fraud a felony, because someone might “unintentionally mislead the agency.” But when a poor person who’s just been thrown out of work does the same thing, LOCK EM UP and lower the chances of that person ever getting off the dole.

Speaks volumes over who the WisGOPs care about, and who they think really deserves welfare, doesn’t it? It speaks volumes over who is writing their campaign checks, and who they listen to as a result. And it ain’t those who have fallen on hard times.

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