The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) was going to be the feather in Scott Walker's cap as he prepared to run for president. It was with this quasi public/private entity that Walker was going to create the 250,000 jobs that he had promised while campaigning for governor. Even though this type of program has failed everywhere else, Walker knew better.
Walker was so assured of its success that he made himself chairman of the board for WEDC.
But instead of a feather in his cap, WEDC has become an albatross around his neck.
The official numbers are in and Walker barely made it to half of the promised jobs, gaining only 121,000 jobs. And if you take out the jobs that were created through the policies and budget of his predecessor, Jim Doyle, Walker didn't even break 100,000 jobs in his first term.
Not only did Walker and WEDC fail miserably to perform as promised, but the agency has been plagued with corruption and ineptitude. Audit after audit showed that the agency lost track of tens of millions of dollars, didn't follow its own rules regarding giving loans and spent money on things like iTunes and Badger football tickets.
In the most recent audit, it was learned that Walker's top aides were leaning heavily on WEDC to give a construction company a $4.3 million loan. The loan ended up being $500,000 but the company created no jobs, went under and never repaid the loan.
It was further revealed that Walker was aware of the progress on securing the loan. You see, Walker had a personal interest in this loan going through since the company owner had given Walker's campaign a $10,000 campaign donation.
Walker went into damage control mode and called for his agency to stop all loans, basically admitting to the failure and corruption of WEDC, which he oversaw.
Days later, it was revealed that Walker had tried to slip into his budget a rule that WEDC would be exempt from FOIA requests.
Finally, the Republicans in the legislature had had enough. Well, either that or they wanted to try to distance Walker from his failure in WEDC. Either way, they ended up firing Walker as chair of the group he created:
The state’s Republican-led budget committee Thursday retained legislative oversight of Gov. Scott Walker’s troubled job-creation agency, removed the governor from its board and pledged further changes later this fall in the wake of a recent critical audit and a State Journal investigation.
The Legislature’s powerful Joint Finance Committee voted along party lines for the changes to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., but only after rejecting a series of Democratic ideas to reform the agency and more than an hour of debate during which even Republicans conceded that the agency needs fixing.
“We know that it’s time to reform this,” said Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson. “We can’t do it in the middle of the budget.”
Knudson even made the sobering admission that he didn’t believe in the mission of the agency — to leverage state tax dollars to help create jobs.
Imagine that. Walker and WEDC failed so miserably that his fellow Republicans had to pull his butt out of the fire he created.
But Walker's WEDC woes doesn't end here.
State Democrats have finally woken up and started acting like Democrats by calling for a federal investigation into Walker's blatant pay for play stunt. Whether the feds actually do anything is yet to be seen.
Sadly, taking Walker out of his position as chair of WEDC won't help the state much. The only real solution to the WEDC debacle is to end it.