Friday, July 11, 2014

Journal-Sentinel covers up WEDC story to curry right-wing business favor, $$$

A bombshell of a story broke this week involving the increasingly failed and sketchy Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). We'll let WKOW Channel 27 in Madison give you the details with the video below. Basically it shows that not only have WEDC tax credits been handed out like candy while the state has the worst job record in the Midwest over the last 3 years, but in some cases, those companies end up outsourcing jobs from Wisconsin, while keeping the tax write-offs.

WKOW later added information showing executives from Plexus had given significant donations to the Walker campaign in recent years, with Eaton being less involved in the quid pro quo .
Members of the board of directors for two companies that outsourced Wisconsin jobs after accepting financial incentives from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation have donated close to $20,000 to Gov. Scott Walker's campaigns since 2005.

Wisconsin campaign finance records show Plexus Corp. board members David Drury and Ralf Boer have each made donations to Walker's campaign. Boer, an attorney and partner in the Foley and Lardner law firm in Milwaukee, has donated a total of $2,300 to the Walker campaign since 2006. Drury, the CEO of Poblocki Sign Company in Milwaukee, has donated $15,800 to Walker's campaign since 2005.

One board member for the Eaton Corp., Gregory Page, an executive with Cargill in Minnesota, made a single donation of $1,000 to the Governor's campaign in 2013.
Amazingly, while the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and several smaller Wisconsin community newspapers have carried the story, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and have yet to say a word on it, despite it being nearly 2 full days since WKOW in Madison went on the air with this revelation.

And there’s an extra layer to this sickening story, with added relevance due to the events of this week. In May 2012, 3 weeks before he faced the voters in a recall election, Governor Walker made an appearance at Plexus Corporation to announce that the company was going to add jobs in the Neenah area, with the help of WEDC tax credits. Doubly interesting is the fact that the Walker website has been scrubbed of this announcement, but Blogging Blue still has their post from 2012 about it, as well as the failure to add those jobs later on.
Plexus Corp., Neenah, is planning to create up to 350 jobs related to the company’s decision to establish a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Neenah. The company is eligible for $15 million in enterprise zone tax credits through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

“This is a tremendous job creation investment being made by Plexus Corp. with the support of the state and city of Neenah," said Governor Scott Walker. “The decision by Plexus to do this major expansion and cement its operations in Neenah reflects the positive direction Wisconsin is heading.”

Plexus Corp.’s proposed 410,000 square foot manufacturing facility will be the showcase for U.S. operations and provide for the increased space needed for future manufacturing requirements. The facility will cement the Fox Cities as the company’s Americas Epicenter.
Well, it didn’t quite work out that way, now did it? Also worth noting, the July 2012 J-S story about Plexus’s layoffs didn’t mention the Walker visit or the WEDC tax credits, but it had no problem running the lie of “Plexus is creating jobs” before the election. So that move ended up being a “win” for Team Walker as well as for the Plexus stockholders and executives who got $4.7 million of those tax credits. But it’s a massive loss for everyone else.

As for the other outsourcer, Eaton Corp was back this February playing the same game, throwing out a press release and media event, complete with quotes by Walker and WEDC CEO Reed Hall, claiming that business was booming with WEDC’s help.
MADISON, WI. February 10, 2014 – Power management company Eaton today announced a $54 million investment in its Waukesha-based Cooper Power Systems business. The project, which calls for expanding one facility and renovating two others, will help Eaton meet growing demand for its utility, commercial and industrial power distribution products and solutions.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is providing up to $1.36 million in tax credits for the project that could create as many as 200 jobs in the region over the next two years.

“There is no question that energy is a vital and growing component of Wisconsin’s economy, and power management is an important part of that sector,” said Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. “This project not only solidifies Eaton’s commitment to Wisconsin, but also is an indication that the company is continuing to look toward the future.”
Hmmm, given that Eaton sent Wisconsin jobs to Mexico after getting its last round of tax credits ($190,000, according to WKOW), I guess we can count on the next outsourcing to be around 2015 or 2016? Or will they just add no one after the video cameras have gone away and the votes have been cast?

The actions of Eaton and Plexus makes me extremely skeptical about Briggs and Stratton’s announcement this week that they were planning to add as many as 370 jobs at their plant in Wauwatosa. I’m especially cynical about this because Todd Teske, Briggs and Stratton’s CEO, just ended a two-year tenure as the Chairman of the Board of Directors at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (aka one of the biggest front groups for Scott Walker and WisGOP). Add in the fact that Briggs and Stratton employees have overwhelmingly given to Republicans over the years, including over $30,000 to Scott Walker, and you can’t help but think these guys might want to claim they’ll create jobs ahead of an election in order to help out Walker’s flailing campaign.

And what has the flailing governor promised Briggs and Stratton in return? Looks like we might find out shortly, as the Milwaukee Business Journal is now reporting that maybe there are a few tax breaks coming the company’s way. In fact, Briggs and Stratton officials are basically admitting they’ll be getting some kind of write-off, and went out of their way to claim Walker tax giveaways as a reason they’ll shift jobs from right-to-work Georgia.
“We’ve been part of the Milwaukee community for 106 years and we had the capacity to move the production to Wauwatosa,” [VP of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Laura] Timm said. “We also saw an improved business climate. We don’t want to go into a lot of details about it, but from a tax, business climate and employee base -- it made sense to bring the work here."

A portion of the 475 employee-workforce from the Georgia facility are moving to the Wauwatosa plant, Timm said.

Company officials are also in preliminary discussions with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and the city of Wauwatosa to see what financial incentives Briggs might be able to receive in connection with the move.
If they’re actually going to move the jobs to Wisconsin (and it's a big “if”), I bet those discussions are not “preliminary”. More like “decided, but we don’t want to let you know how much taxpayers will have to pick up.”

Of course, the J-S part of JournalComm ignored that issue entirely, dutifully running the Briggs and Stratton job announcement, burying the tax credit talk well down into the article, and never asking if the jobs would actually ever appear. They just blasted the “jobs are coming” headline within hours of the Briggs and Stratton announcement, and used a quote from Dan Ariens of Ariens Manufacturing, without mentioning that Ariens had just succeeded Teske as WMC’s Chairman of the Board. At the same, (coincidentally I’m sure), the J-S is still failing to mention the outsourcing scandals and empty promises from previous WEDC recipients Plexus and Eaton Corp., and asking WEDC CEO Reed Hall if any type of safeguards might be included to keep the same thing from happening at Briggs and Stratton.

I was able to put together this information in a matter of a couple of hours using the Internet and the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's database, so why can't reporters with a background in this stuff not do the same? I fear it has a whole lot to do with the J-S seeing the $7.6 million cash on hand that Walker has, and wanting to make sure their company gets a sizable portion of that money. Which means they have a natural conflict of interest when it comes to how they cover Walker and his business allies at places like Briggs and Stratton.

Which is why we must keep drawing attention to the failures of the J-S and their fellow media outlets, exposing those failures to the public, and we must make these people and the corporations they work for pay a high price for their dereliction of duty. Because these jobs stories (and the type of coverage they do or do not get) have shown yet again that JournalComm cannot be expected to play it straight when it comes to telling the full story about the corruption and subpar results of their boy Scotty.

Angry yet?

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