Early voting began yesterday in Wisconsin. Voters have until October 31 to cast an early ballot in the gubernatorial election. With nine days left of early voting available, the Democratic Party is continuing our series of reasons for voters to cast their ballots early and say no to Scott Walker on Election Day.

Yesterday, we kicked things off with a look at Scott Walker’s support for voting restrictions like Voter ID. Today, we highlight the slow-motion trainwreck that is Walker’s Economic Disaster Corporation (WEDC), Scott Walker’s flagship jobs agency which has failed miserably at its primary purpose of creating jobs and a favorable business climate.

Scott Walker’s Economic Disaster Corporation was supposed to be the state’s flagship jobs agency, but as Wisconsin ranks dead last – 10th out of 10 states – in the Midwest on job creation since 2011, WEDC is better known for creating scandals rather than jobs.  

  • A series of scathing audits in 2012 show Walker’s Economic Disaster Corporation lost track of $56 million worth of taxpayer funded loans. [1]

  • Audits also found that the agency lacked basic internal accounting controls and estimated that it would not collect about $19 million in loans. [2]

  • In just three years, WEDC has been through three different CEOs.

  • It only took 24 hours for the second CEO at WEDC to abandon the sinking ship. Walker gave the job to a political ally who previously served on the board at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and who donated to Walker’s campaigns in 2010 and 2012. [3]

  • John Gillespie, hired to serve as WEDC’s Public Information Officer as part of a plan to improve the scandal-plagued agency’s damaged reputation, owes $36,047 in back taxes to the State of Wisconsin and another $7,770 for improperly received unemployment insurance compensation benefits. [4]

  • In May of last year, an audit from the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau found Walker’s WEDC routinely violated state law.  From July 2011 to December 2012,  Walker’s Economic Disaster Corporation never kept track of job creation efforts for a group of companies who received award money, which prevented the agency from informing the state legislature with accurate information on their efforts to create jobs. Under state law, WEDC is required to track award money and present accurate information to legislators on job creation efforts. [5]

  • Last year’s audit revealed stunning levels of managerial incompetence as 56 percent of credit card purchases by the agency included no description of their purpose on expense reports. WEDC spent taxpayer funds on alcohol, iTunes gift cards and Badgers football season tickets. [6]

  • Revelations of WEDC’s law breaking came a year after the U.S. Department of House and Urban Development called out WEDC for mishandling millions in federal grant money. That same year WEDC admitted it failed to track more than $8 million in unpaid loans to nearly 100 Wisconsin businesses. [7]

  • From 2011 to 2013, Walker’s flagship jobs agency only managed to create 5,840 new jobs. During the same two-year period, 13,616 jobs were lost in Wisconsin due to layoffs or closures. Even after $203 million left WEDC in the form of grants, loans, and bonding authority, Wisconsin lost more than two jobs for every job gained. [8]

  • In December of 2013, WEDC released an annual report showing the agency fell well short of their own economic development goals despite spending $330 million on economic development initiatives, forcing them to slash economic goals for Fiscal Year 2014 by more than 50 percent. [9]

Background:
[1] “The memo provides a detailed breakdown of the $56 million in loans that were not tracked. Of that amount, about $2.7 million are past due, $2.4 million have been written off and $2.6 million have been forgiven.” (“WEDC heads: Issues serious, but fixable”, Associated Press, 11/30/12)

[2] ”Auditors also estimated that the agency will not collect about $19 million of its $51 million in loans. That includes about $15 million in forgivable loans, loans made with the understanding that repayment will not be required if the borrowers meet certain requirements, as well as about $4 million that are uncollectible, such as overdue loans to companies that have gone bankrupt and cannot repay them,” (“Audit details serious problems at state's top jobs agency, Wisconsin State Journal, 12/18/12)


[3] “This week the state's flagship jobs agency brought on its third chief financial officer in less than two years - only to see him resign within 24 hours to take a promotion at his former company.” (“State jobs agency adds 3rd finance chief in 2 years, then loses him in a day”, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4/24/13)

[4] ”John Gillespie, who WEDC brought in as its new Public Information Officer on April 8, owes $36,047 in back taxes to the State of Wisconsin, according to the Department of Revenue's delinquent taxpayer list.” (“UPDATE: WEDC official resigns after 27 News investigation”, WKOW, 5/7/13)

[5] “The report shows that from July 2011 to December 2012, WEDC failed to follow a number of state statutes in their financial and job creation reporting, awarded loans and grants to ineligible projects and failed to keep track of spending within the organization itself.” (UPDATE: Audit reveals WEDC broke state law, WKOW, 5/1/13)

[6] “The audit also shows 56 percent of the agency's credit card purchases were put on expense reports with no description of their purpose.  That included money spent on alcohol, ITunes gift cards and six Badgers football season tickets.” (UPDATE: Audit reveals WEDC broke state law, WKOW, 5/1/13)

[7] “In a strongly worded Aug. 12 letter to Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, federal officials said two state agencies failed to follow federal law and their own policies in issuing economic development grants.” (Feds slam state agencies over use of economic-development money,Wisconsin State Journal, 9/26/13)

[8] “The number of new jobs WEDC can credibly document is not 250,000; it is not 50,000; it is not 37,000. Walker’s official jobs database can document only 5,840 “actual” jobs reported to be created by firms for FY 2012 and FY 2013.” (Only 5,840 'actual' jobs from Walker's WEDC, Capital Times, 6/10/14)

[9] WEDC Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2013