Tuesday, March 24, 2015

In politics, Menard's gets a great deal from you!

Isn't it sad that it takes national writers to give the real story about what is going on in Wisconsin during the Age of Fitzwalkerstan? That example was borne out today with this story from Michael Isikoff in Yahoo News, who gave us more information about the source of money that was behind Gov Scott Walker's survival in the recall election of 2012, and why there's a John Doe investigation against Walker and his buddies today.
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.

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.
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.

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.

"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.
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?

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.

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.
Hmm, untraceable donations to Walker turn into unaccountable millions handed out to Walker donors corporations through WEDC. And as Isikoff's story from today shows, WEDC is still proving to be a nice source for Walker contributors to see some return on their investment, which makes me wonder just how much info is in the unreleased parts of the John Doe investigation that will be discussed before the Wisconsin Supreme Court next month.

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.


  1. I think what was most interesting about the article yesterday is the fact that the national media is now taking an interest in the Doe story. They obviously are starting to see the smoke coming from the fire we have been pointing at for years.

    It is telling that the story has multiple sources...someone close to the case is talking. The new information about the donors directly to WiCFG is quite revealing on this point.

    There's no question the WI Supreme Court is going to punt on the Doe, the majority is bought and paid for, but there are two possible outcomes at this point. The first is the US Supreme Court. That's a mess of epic proportions for many, many reasons, not the least of which is the attention it will draw.

    The second is that the remaining documents (of which there is a substantial amount--almost a third of the case material is still under seal) will be released. That's a feeding frenzy waiting to happen if Walker's presidential profile heats up. Not only will the GOP daggers come out for him, but the Dem's will have a field day portraying Walker as the corrupt little weasel that he is.

    The big question now, and the one I wished the Yahoo article had addressed is who the "three unnamed petitioners" are. If one or more of those names is embedded in the chart above, expect to see our national media step in where the locals have failed.

  2. The most interesting passage for me in the Journal Sentinel online account of the Isikoff expose was when Andrew Grossman, one of the attorneys representing the Club for Growth said, "There is no question that these stories are the result of leaks, most likely by persons associated with the John Doe investigation." No spit, Sherlock! Two points: 1. Grossman, like everyone else on the right, will now accuse the Doe prosecutors of leaking that info. 2. I think, following your own line of reasoning, Jake, that it's far more likely this info was leaked by conservatives who are party to the case.

    Why? Well, for one thing, a growing number of them seem to have rediscovered their consciences and they realize the great harm all this corruption is eventually going to do to their cause and to the GOP. Besides, I very much doubt the prosecutors would leak information -- I'm not naive, but that move, especially at this stage, would be a suicidal career-kiiller, and after all the prosecutors were those who felt it necessary to keep all this information private in the first place.

    I think it's more likely the leakers were disaffected, in-the-ranks minions on the public or private side, and there are a lot more of those on the private side of this case. However, I wouldn't put it past the defendants to leak this info because, as you suggest, they're disillusioned with Walker, or (I like this theory better) because they think this latest false-flag operation will further enhance their chances in the kangaroo state Supreme Court or the kangaroo court of public opinion. Remember, modern conservatives aren't happy just because they win; they must smash their opposition in the process, and the Legislature is drooling at the chance to de-fang this and future Does.

    Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal editorial page will as usual go ballistic any moment now. That's the WSJ which has openly admitted it was given access to secret Doe records. But only conservatives and their institutions should be granted such privilege.

    1. If they're trying a "false flag" operation to get sympathy, it's a massive backfire. This seems to have grabbed a lot of people's attention, and totally destroys any Walker line of "John Doe is dead and isn't worth talking about." A whole lot more people just got their attention piqued nationwide, and now they'll see just how deep the right-wing web of corruption has gone in Wisconsin.

  3. I wonder if the reason that a national media broke this rather than a WI media outlet is that the data came form outside WI. Like, perhaps, somebody in FL dropped a dime to head off their nearest competitor? Isikoff would be a logical place where the fruits of oppo-research could come to full fruition.

    In any account, the timing is exquisite RE: the WiSC deliberations next month. The pressure has to be intense on the Fab Four of the Supreme court. They are being asked by the guys that undeniably own them outright to bail their sorry asses out of even being investigated. We shall see if they really are justices very soon. I would not bet on it.

    The fab-4 are in a lose-lose situation here. If it was not of their own making, I would feel a little sympathy. If they recuse, as they should, the masters will not be happy. The very same masters that spent $10M getting them elected. The same thing happens if they vote to continue the investigation. They will be selling lemonade to raise campaign funds the next time around. If they vote to kill the investigation they will certainly go down in history as a textbook great-shining-example of judicial corruption. None of those scenarios are happy for the participants.

    Scott Walker has a lot more to worry about than getting to the right of Ted Cruz.

    1. This theory makes a lot of sense to me, and I do think the corrupt cons on the Wisconsin Court know that making something up to protect Club for Greed will have major blowback. In a way, this Isikoff story gives them some cover if they bail on changing any coordination laws.

      There's also a tax-evasion element to this case, as Menard was able to hide his identity because he have the money to a "social welfare" group. If this is being used to get around taxes, and get favors across state lines, that sure seems like a federal case to me. Walker 's presidential campaign fund is a similar type of scam (which is why he's not officially in the race yet).

      Maybe the Bushies are trying to make sure all the big money goes their way, and outing Menard and others on Walker's money-laundering scam could be a way to do it

  4. Why would 2 Companies Donate more $$ than they received from the WEDC, That being Spancrete, Inc. and Fisher Barton?

    1. What's your theory Anon?

    2. CJ, Short and straight to the point, $$$ Laundering.

  5. Sometimes what a donor receives is not a monetary payout, but policies that shift profits from workers to managment.

  6. We've talked about the money laundering mechanisms and incestuous coordinated interconnection of organizations throughout Walker's time in office. Here's an article you'll find of interest. http://www.alternet.org/election-2012/major-retailer-urges-workers-take-civics-course-anti-obama-content

    1. Thanks for that, CJ. For those of you who haven't clicked the link, it talks about Menard's trying to indoctrinate employees with right-wing anti-Obama propaganda in 2012.

      It was also headed up by Mark. "Banned for Wisconsin politics" a Block, a Koch front man who got nailed in the '90s and early 2000s for running money-laundering schemes similar to what Club for Greed did with donations from Menard's and others.


  7. CJ, Did SKW take one out of the Tom Delay? Change the Names, The Dates, Insert SKW, Pick a Donor and compare.

  8. I see Donald Trump donated to WI CFG. That's interesting especially since Walker seems to be leaning toward him. Walker said Republicans could win Wisconsin if Trump was their candidate.