Following an outcry from leaders on both sides of the aisle, the head of Wisconsin’s scandal-plagued flagship economic development agency nixed a Republican-backed proposal to bar the agency’s board members from talking about its operations.
The backlash followed a report on the proposed gag order that appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation CEO Mark Hogan cited feedback from “various board members” in announcing that he would withdraw the order, which would have barred WEDC board members from talking to reporters or sharing information about the agency, which is taxpayer-funded.
Under the proposal, WEDC’s chief legal officer would have investigated board members suspected of speaking to the press for disciplinary action.
Democratic and Republican legislators blasted the proposal, calling for more transparency and oversight of the agency, which has faced frequent many embarrassing scandals since Gov. Scott Walker and Republican lawmakers created it in 2011.
The agency was created for job development, but it has not succeeded on that front. Critics say it has become a corporate welfare agency for Walker’s cronies, doling out taxpayer money to Walker donors who then cut jobs or sent them overseas. In fact, records show that Walker might have given out millions in unearned tax credits.
“After years of controversies, scandals, and failure to deliver jobs to Wisconsin, Walker and his WEDC cronies are trying to hide their misguided actions and agenda from the public,” said the Democratic Party of Wisconsin in a statement to the press. “This just adds to the long list of Scott Walker’s attempts to sweep the failures of his administration under the rug. Despite the objections we see from Walker and his colleagues as they continue to try and hide their actions and treat WEDC like their own personal piggy bank.”
“Multiple audits have shown that Gov. Walker’s flagship job-creation agency is riddled with incompetence and mismanagement,” said Democratic Party of Wisconsin chair Martha Laning. “Furthermore, news reports have brought to light how WEDC has funneled taxpayer dollars to donors who fill their campaign coffers and corporations that ship jobs overseas. After years of controversy coupled with poor jobs numbers it isn’t surprising that the governor would want to sweep his failures under the rug. Wisconsinites deserve to know the truth and anything short of that is wrong for the taxpayers and wrong for Wisconsin.”