Sunday, August 3, 2014

This week in WisGOP corruption- fracking and aircraft version

Yep, time for another episode in this continuing series. This time it involves two stories that broke over the weekend.

The first was a story by Lee Berquist in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that hit on Saturday, which involved our Governor using one of his many taxpayer-funded "it's working" trips to a friendly business, and some interesting PR from the State's Department of Justice.
Two weeks after Gov. Scott Walker visited a frac sand company in western Wisconsin to celebrate an expansion, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen entered a settlement withthe company for violating state environmental laws.

But unlike three other cases where sand mining companies paid fines for violating state regulations, the Justice Department didn't issue a news release detailing the agreement with Hi-Crush Proppants LLC, which agreed to pay $52,500 in forfeitures on June 5, according to records filed in Eau Claire County Circuit Court.
And the reason that we didn't hear about Hi-Crush's fines from the DOJ?
Dana Brueck, spokeswoman for Van Hollen, said she has a simple reason for why she didn't issue a release: She didn't have the time.

In an email, Brueck said: "I had no communications with the governor's office regarding Hi-Crush. This office makes decisions related to DOJ news releases. I do not issue a news release on every case that the DOJ handles, and as I mentioned, by the time I could issue a release, it was dated."
Riiiight. It has nothing at all to do with Walker's visit to the Hi-Crush expansion site in Trempealeau County, or the fact that Hi-Crush's out-of-state CEO and COO each gave Walker's campaign $5,000 over the last 2+ years. Just like it's total coincidence that Walker and his cabinet members have a tendency to show up at these "jobs announcements" of campaign contributor. And I'm sure that's it's a lack of manpower that's the reason for why a Walker contributor had their settlement for pollution buried by the Department of Justice and other polluters did not get the same treatment. Suuuure.

It's telling that environmental reporter Bergquist is the J-S guy who does this story, and not the "news" guys like Dan Bice (last seen chasing around Mary Burke's and Trek's tax records, and finding that they paid a lot of taxes) or Jason Stein or any of the others that are on the Capitol beat, because Bergquist doesn't have to care about kissing GOP backsides, and probably isn't under as much corporate pressure to tone down the stories on Walker's corruption like the regular J-S guys are.

And while the J-S lackeys are busy repeating the Walker campaign and WisGOP's latest anti-Burke falsehood under the facade of "investigative reporting," they continue to miss the big stories of corruption and taxpayer fleecing coming from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). Which leaves it to the Capital Times' Mike Ivey to reveal the latest sketchiness in the saga of Kestrel Aircraft and the company's inability to create jobs in NW Wisconsin, despite getting numerous amounts of taxpayer assistance and other forms of help from WEDC. Ivey mentions that Kestrel is instead rehiring employees at its facility IN MAINE, instead of doing as they as Gov Walker said they would do 2 1/2 years ago - set up shop in Superior.
Kestrel had promised to build an airplane manufacturing plant in Maine before it announced in January 2012 a move to Superior based on financial incentives from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

When the announcement was made about Kestrel moving to Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker said the company would eventually employ 600 people, but so far the company has just a few dozen workers here.

WEDC has provided $4 million in loans to the firm, with the city of Superior contributing another $2.4 million in loans. In addition, Kestrel is certified to receive up to $18 million in enterprise zone tax credits from WEDC, and $30 million in federal New Market Tax Credits from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA).
Instead of doing anything to deserve the more than $50 million in incentives, Kestrel paid nothing back to the state on those loans for more than 6 months between October 2013 and April 2014, and even skipped payroll for its few employees in Superior, causing WEDC and state officials to restructure the loans. (You'd get all these extra chances if you failed to execute a contract with the state, right?)

What's doubly interesting about the Kestrel story is that this company pulled the same thing with the state of Maine, promising 300 new jobs in 2010. Then it abruptly reduced those plans when it claimed Maine wouldn't follow through with enough incentives working out the deal with Walker's WEDC in January 2012. It's pretty obvious that Kestrel is playing the two states off of one another to bilk as many giveaways as they can, but the bigger question is "Why is the Walker Admin and WEDC still going along with this game?" Is it that the Walker folks are so desperate to grow jobs anywhere that they're willing to give away the taxpayer's farm in order to help their flagging stats? Or, as it appears to be with Hi-Crush, was there a deal made between the two parties to help each other out through campaign contributions?

Maybe "No Quarter Investigative Reporter" Dan Bice can find out, if he ever stops following the Walker Admin's and JournalComm bosses' orders and decides to do something other than going through Mary Burke's personal belongings. Because caring about the abuse of taxpayer dollars through WEDC and possible pay-for-play when it comes to environmental enforcement would seem to be a bigger priority for all Wisconsinites.

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