Tuesday, August 26, 2014

No connection without a thank you note

Really, it would be the height of rudeness to not include a thank you note with their campaign contributions if there had been any connection with the tax break.
Less than a month after voting to give a Wisconsin furniture company a $6 million tax credit that allows it to lay off half its in-state workforce, Gov. Scott Walker (R) received $20,000 in campaign donations from the company’s leadership, a newspaper in the state reports.

Ashley Furniture won the credit from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) in January on a 9-2 vote. As WEDC Chairman, Walker was one of the 9 votes in favor. Then in February his campaign received four $5,000 donations from company founder Ronald Wanek, current CEO Todd Wanek, and their respective spouses, the Wisconsin State Journal reports.

A Walker spokeswoman told the State Journal that there was no connection between the WEDC decision and the campaign contributions that followed. Neither the governor’s office nor his campaign nor Ashley Furniture responded to emails from ThinkProgress requesting comment on the story.

Walker is currently under scrutiny for allegedly soliciting far larger donations to the state arm of the Club for Growth. But while the dollar figures involved in that ongoing court case are attention-grabbing, the alleged misconduct there is less overtly tied to Walker’s ability to make decisions that help donors’ bottom line. The Club for Growth investigation suggests that Walker may have illegally coordinated with an outside electioneering group in violation of campaign finance law while soliciting contributions from vulture capitalist Paul Singer, Home Depot founder Ken Langone, and other billionaires who frequently open their checkbooks for right-wing causes.

The Ashley Furniture story features a more direct, localized use of Walker’s authority over state funds. The company says the deal, which is worth more than all its previous tax incentives from the state combined, will allow it to expand its headquarters in Arcadia, WI.

“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,” the State Journal reports, calling the credit “one of the most valuable and coveted state subsidies.” A WEDC spokesman told the State Journal that it “is committed to doing whatever it can to work with the company and preserve those jobs.” A former WEDC executive told the paper he didn’t think the group had ever handed out a tax subsidy that was conditioned on job cuts rather than job growth, but added that the the specific circumstances in this case could warrant such a move.
Just because the only people who benefit are the management and owners of Ashley Furniture, it is a stretch to imagine that Governor Homunculus was fishing for cash. It just looks that way so move along, nothing more to see here.


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