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.Yes, that $1.8 milllion in "special tax credits" that Menard's got was through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). Keep that in mind for later.
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.
Isikoff's article goes on to describe the money-laundering operation that Wisconsin Club for Growth ran for Walker, as well as the oligarchs that chipped in to help the cause, without having to sack up and put their names behind their donations.
Now you can't tell me that the Madison and Milwaukee newspapers that have been covering John Doe and WEDC for 4 years didn't have a clue about this. Which makes you ask "Why didn't they report the story?", and did that reason have to do with the promises of millions of dollars of Scott Walker ad money? (looking at Journal Communications' blowout Fourth Quarter earnings from 2014, I'd say signs point to "YES.")
It also reiterated two other themes I have constantly hit on during this disastrous reign in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan.
1. John Doe 2 at its core is a money-laundering case, with the extra bonus of hiding the names of campaign contributors, which keeps people in the dark when they get kickbacks like WEDC tax credits. That's why Club for Growth is fighting it so hard- because any charges and trials that come from it would reveal the money train, and expose the cycle of "campaign donation- tax cut- additional donations" that have helped to increase inequality in this country over the last 35 years.
2. WEDC is an absolute mess, both ethically and in competence of operations. Yes, those paying attention knew that already, but Walker made an incredible statement to the Journal-Sentinel today on the subject (in a story that's conveniently buried in their news feed and off the front page).
In 2013 and 2014, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. chaired by Walker awarded Menard's namesake chain of hardware stores up to $1.8 million in tax credits. The governor and his aides responded that he had not been directly involved in those awards.Walker's spokesmodel also is quoted in the Isikoff article claiming that the donation to Club for Growth and the resulting tax cuts were total coincidence. The problem with those statements is that Walker is THE CHAIR OF THE WEDC BOARD and has been since it started in 2011. How the hell wouldn't he know about what he was approving of as the head of the group that signed off on those tax credits. And not having a clue what's going on under your nose really isn't an attractive attribute for someone asking to be president, isn't it?
"I haven't engaged in any of that and there's going to be lots of stories going forward," Walker told a reporter after a meeting of the state Building Commission.
By the way, WEDC is still literally throwing millions of taxpayer money away without having a clue where it went or what it was ultimately used for, as we saw again last month.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, issued a letter Thursday urging the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. to hire an acting chief financial officer after previous CFO Stephanie Walker left in January. She was the organization’s fourth CFO since its creation less than four years ago.Hmm, untraceable donations to Walker turn into unaccountable millions handed out to
Barca said the hire is critical because WEDC has had problems tracking state loans and grants. A May 2013 audit found the quasi-public agency was not following state law in how it was keeping tabs on millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies, and earlier this week the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the agency continues to have difficulties despite assurances that the problem had been addressed.
Not that I expect the paid-off Wisconsin media to draw these connections too deeply, but maybe Isikoff's article is a sign that the national media will ask the questions that have gone dormant far too long, and perhaps we will see pay-for-play corruption brought into the light that we previously only saw from Illinois (once upon the time, we took pride in our politics being cleaner than what those FIBs did). And if Walker's presidential run starts faltering as the state's economy and budget has faltered, is it possible that some big-name GOPs might throw Scotty overboard before he destroys the GOP on the national ticket in 2016.