Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ashley Furniture and WEDC- two connections of WisGOP crookedness

Today's headline in the Wisconsin State Journal, and following story by Matt DuFour is bad enough on its face. "WEDC board OK'd Ashley Furniture getting $6 million tax credit, cutting 1,900 jobs." Yes, that's right. We're giving taxpayer dollars to a company that will lay off massive amounts of Wisconsinites.
As approved by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. board, the award would allow the Arcadia-based global furniture maker to move ahead with a $35 million expansion of its headquarters and keep 1,924 jobs in the state.

But it wouldn’t require Ashley to create any new jobs, instead granting the company license to lay off half of its current 3,848 Wisconsin-based workers in exchange for an enterprise zone tax credit, one of the most valuable and coveted state subsidies.

The board’s decision has not been made public because a contract with the company has not been finalized. But in a statement Friday, in response to questions from the State Journal, Ashley Furniture confirmed it is seeking state subsidies that include terms allowing for job reductions.
The tax "incentives" ask Ashley to only lay off 30% of its employees this year, and no more than 50% by 2016. Cool deal, huh? DuFour's story mentions that the only 2 members of the WEDC Board to vote against this giveaway were the two Dem legislators- Sen. Julie Lassa and Rep. Peter Barca.

In the story, Ashley Furniture indicates that the layoffs incentives are needed in order to stay in the Trempealeau County Village in Arcadia because of the high transportation costs involved in being away from major markets. At least, it seems to be the transportation costs, because it sure isn't because of high wages.
According to the WEDC memo, 56 percent of Ashley employees make less than $10.88 per hour, which is the wage standard WEDC uses when determining if a company is meeting job creation goals. [WEDC Board member Paul] Radspinner said the board was not happy with the wages. But he said the company deserves credit for its health insurance benefits, which the memo said cover 76 percent of an employees’ premiums.
And now here's the REALLY BAD PART. And no, it's not only because it adds to last month's revelations about WEDC giving tax breaks to other Wisconsin companies that outsourced and laid off workers.

Last March, Gov Walker appeared at Ashley Furniture in a thinly-disguised campaign event, and the company sure wasn't talking about layoffs then.
With 22,000 employees at plants and stores worldwide, Ashley could have expanded elsewhere, said founder and board chairman Ron Wanek. If not for Walker, he said, “we probably wouldn’t have done it here.”

“We like the direction that Wisconsin is going,” he said.

CEO Todd Wanek said the $13 million expansion allowed the company to boost the plant’s payroll from about 400 to 518 workers since its completion.
Back at the time of the March event, I noted that Wanek had given large donations to Walker in recent years, and that Walker had pulled the same "photo op at a contributor" routine right before the 2012 recall election. Given that his company had just been offered massive tax write-offs in exchange for his threats to shut down (and past contributions?), I imagine Todd Wanek would like this arrangement.

I usually don't like to toot my own horn, but I saw this coming back in March, well before we knew about the WEDC write-offs given to outsourcers and how these tax breaks disproportionately go to Walker donators. That's not necessarily because I'm that smart, but more because our media is just that gutless.
....when we see Walker showing up at Ashley Furniture for his 2014 campaign like he did his 2012 campaign, you gotta ask- what's the payback that's expected this time? Both from the Wanek family and other Ashley execs when it comes to contributing to Walker's campaign, as well as what kind of legislation is Walker thinking of cooking up if he slips by both John Doe Deux and Mary Burke and gets re-elected. You know it can't be anything that helps us 99%-ers.

And it's also yet another indictment of the Wisconsin media. Yes, Chris Hubbuch of the La Crosse Tribune deserves some credit for giving context of Ashley Furniture's favoritism, and in relaying Ron Wanek's TeaBagging speech (even more disgraceful is that Wanek did this in front of a captive audience of employees). However, it wasn't nearly good enough, and if we had a real media in this state, they'd ask "Gov. Walker, given that you've already had sketchy dealings with Ashley Furniture, why did you decide to show up at this event? Was something promised?"
Now we know that there was a promise of millions in tax breaks already offered by the WEDC Board (and Chairman Scott Walker) 6 weeks before this event. It also shows exactly why the Walker Administration announced last month that they would hide this type of information from the public, to keep us in the dark on any future giveaways until our money is already in the crony/campaign contributor business owner's pockets.

There's a whole lot more where this story came from, Mr. DuFour. You and the State Journal should go after it. We know the Journal-Sentinel won't do it, since they take ad money from the corrupt oligarch handout known as WEDC, so you won't have much competition.

And oh yeah, don't buy any furniture from Ashley, because we now see where that money is going- right into Scott Walker's campaign fund.


  1. Nice post.story is very intresting.i learn here a lot.priviously I learn about Ashley Furniture from Mr.