Friday, October 19, 2012

I wonder what the list of names of people whose loans were forgotten might have in common with Walker donors? (Publicus Proventus)

It's too bad nobody cares what I think about politics because what I think about politics is always correct.

On December 29, 2010, I wrote a post titled

Apparently, "less government" means "less powers, but more pay for friends." Also: Lying is cool.


 in which I discussed the then-pending creation of the "Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation," and pointed out that it might not be the best thing to create a quasi-government agency staffed with Walker cronies who would be given the ability to manipulate millions of government dollars with little oversight or regulatory authority

Now, today, I check the headlines on and see this gem:

Walker calls for 'dramatic' changes after WEDC lost track of $8M in past-due loans

For the life of me, I can't imagine why "lost track" isn't in quotes.  If there was ever a two-word phrase dripping with sarcasm, it's that one.

That story, though, does what journalists call "burying the lead." Let's play "WE ARE ALL JOURNALISTS" and see if you can spot the story in this, the seventh and eighth paragraphs of the story:

The newly-uncovered loans to 99 businesses, which are past due by 30 days or more, amount to 16 percent of the state agency's total loan portfolio of $51 million in loans, WEDC chief operating officer Ryan Murray said. He said they are still trying to determine how the problem occurred and working to clean up the mess, adding that the problem was uncovered during an audit of the agency.

The head of the agency didn't mention the mishap when he testified at length Wednesday morning before the Legislature's Joint Audit Committee, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported.

I mean, I suppose it's important to point out to readers that Gov. Patsy, who created this boondoggle just over a year ago, now wants to completely revamp this patronage position tohelp pay off people who refuse to testify against him in the John Doe proceeding I mean "make it more effective" or something that sounds innocuous, but wouldn't these potential headlines have also been effective?

State agency staffed by Walker buddy not sure what happened to $8,000,000.


Walker crony deliberately hides evidence from legislative inquiry because he didn't want to talk about it yet.

I at least saw the collapse of the WEDC coming.  What still stuns me, as always, is the complete lack of journalism that goes on.  There are lots and lots of people -- my in-laws -- who swear Gov. Patsy is like a God to them, and part of the problem is that journalists no longer are.

Not only does this story lean in Gov. Patsy's favor -- it does not call him out or remind people that he created the agency but apparently did so without ever bothering to put in place employees to monitor a $51,000,000 portfolio:

Murray added that some of the businesses had paid back at least a portion of their loans. But he added that WEDC loan collection appears to have been lost in the shuffle as the former Commerce Department was transformed into the new quasi-public WEDC.

"It's pretty clear that the Department of Commerce had this function — they had staff that handled this — and it's clear for the last year that WEDC hasn't," Murray said. "I think the important thing is clearly we dropped the ball — the staff here did — but while the system collecting loans didn't work, the system for catching this did."
(would this be a good time to point out that Walker fired 400-some people from the old Commerce Department when he created WEDC? The "journalists" in that story didn't mention it, but I bet some of those 400 people were part of "the system collecting loans.")

(FYI, Mr. Murray: To say "the system didn't work" implies you have a system.  You didn't.)

but beyond presenting the story the way the site did -- essentially saying "Here is a problem that nobody could have foreseen but Walker will fix it, when the story is "Here is a problem entirely created by a poorly-thought out, ALEC-driven revamping of a political system to reward people with patronage jobs, and now we're going to trust the same guy to fix it? -- the "journalism" which is completely not on display in that story leaves out several critical factors, which include:

Chief Executive Officer Paul Jadin announced last month that he is leaving the WEDC on Nov. 1 to take a job as president of Thrive, a Madison-area economic development agency.
That's what they published.  But they didn't mention that Jadin, usually called a "Former Green Bay Mayor," also sits on the board of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.  WMC spent $2,000,000 alone on supporting Gov. Patsy in the recall this past summer.

Now, Jadin is going to "Thrive," which was conducting a nationwide search for a leader but which then asked Jadin to submit a resume, recently.  (I wonder what prompted that?) Jadin's first job at Thrive will be to meet with Chinese investors.  
One might wonder what "THRIVE" is, exactly -- and one would go on wondering if one were to rely on or "journalists-who-are-not" to report on it.  
Thrive is the economic development partnership for the eight-county Madison Region with a vision to create a dynamic environment where people and businesses prosper.
 THRIVE has three "executive" board members:  Mark Cullen, Gary Wolter, and Bill Johnston.  Bill Johnston publishes the Wisconsin State Journal, which is a part of  Gary Wolter is the head of Madison Gas & Electric.  (Wolter, it might interest you to know, made $1,080,000 in 2008.  He's doing better now; Forbes reports his 2011 compensation as $2,019,789.)  

None of that says what "THRIVE" does, exactly; they're "about" page suggests they will help businesses relocate or start up in the region, using their 121-page "Advance Now" action plan. Some of that action plan involves trips to other cities.  I'm sure most of those cities will be in the north, during the winter.

Anyway, enough about shadowy organizations designed to help banks steer money to Chinese investors!  Let's focus on the other part of the story, the NEW head of WEDC.

Whereas the outgoing guy, Jadin, was an incompetent who never realized that if you have $51,000,000 in outstanding loans, you might want to have at least one person responsible for knowing about that...

...I'm paraphrasing: what Bill Johnston's publications said about him was: "Walker praised Jadin for helping to build "a strong foundation" for the WEDC."...
 ...the incoming guy is clearly suited to lead the WEDC into at least the 15th century -- that being when "bookkeeping" was invented, so it's not surprising that only 6 centuries later, the heads of Wisconsin's economy hadn't yet heard of the remarkable way to keep track of money -- because the new guy is Ryan Murray, who previously worked as "Walker's campaign policy director and a former Senate aide" before being called up to the majors, which will no doubt add to those 307 contacts Murray has on LinkedIN.

Ryan was the deputy chief of staff for Governor Patsy, but this 30-year-old up-and-comer has been the COO (Chief Operating Officer) of WEDC since July, 2012, so it took him only about three months to come up with a completely competent plan of "Let's try to figure out who we've lent money to while also lying to the legislature about what's going on." 

Some might doubt the competency and brilliance of that plan, but then, those people would likely not have seen Ryan Murray's resume, which is available online here, and which, while it doesn't mention actually graduating from a college or getting a degree, at least notes that Mr. Murray apparently did in fact attend some colleges, so that's good.

But really, his economic-agency, $51,000,000-portfolio-managing- expertise comes from things like running the campaign of Randy Hopper (now currently out of office), running the campaign for Terrence Wall (never elected), directing policy for something called "Friends Of Scott Walker" (they held their meetings in a telephone booth).  SOUNDS VERY PROFESSIONAL AND ECONOMICISH.

Ryan Murray did do well at the Mock Trial while he was at Macalester, though.  Let's give credit where credit is due: he is very good at pretending to do something professional.


PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

It would be interesting to know who owns these newspapers that can't be bothered with reporting the actual news. Chances are it's someone with links to Walker. Which is why the whole "liberal media" argument is so hilarious these days when 90% of the media in this country is owned by guys like Rupert Murdoch who are anything but liberal.

Andrew Leon said...

Focusing on the journalism angle, part of the problem is not being able to do or say anything that might accuse someone of something. When you live in a culture where the biggest crime is to imply offense, you can't say anything unless you have definitive proof.

Briane P said...

PT: Lee Enterprises owns the Wisconsin State Journal, which is one-half of Lee Enterprises is publicly traded, went through bankruptcy in 2011 and is in part owned by Warren Buffett's company. I wasn't able to find a connection to Walker or the GOP.

Andrew: Journalists enjoy substantial First Amendment protections. To be sued for defamation of a public figure you have to prove the journalist knew the story was false and published it anyway.

A bigger problem is corporate ownership of journalists; the corporations (as noted in my post) are frequently headed by people who have political ties, so journalists may be subtly (or not so subtly) encouraged not to proceed on stories.

In this case, the local paper had a headline that focused on the missing loans, while the online story focused on Gov. Patsy's vow to clean it up -- but there was no inquiry into why it got so bad, and no discussion of the fact that a political figure (and one with little experience at that, either) was being appointed to head an economic development board. Jadin, for his apparent faults, at least had some experience in this area.

Briane P said...

So the problem is that the public isn't told about these connections and has insufficient information. I would be equally alarmed if a Democratic Governor were to do these types of things.

Andrew Leon said...

Well, I know this, but you still see it happening.

Not that I follow that kind of thing all that much.

It just seems that everyone is full of fear of saying true things even when there are facts, but, maybe, it's just fear of losing a job. I'm not just talking about journalists.

It's like when the trailer for the movie The Pirates! Band of Misfits came out and there was the leper joke in it, and the leprosy league (or whatever they were called) got all upset about it, and Aardman had to pull the clip and change that scene in the movie.

Or when Tracy What's-His-Name (from 30 Rock) had to apologize to everyone for offensive remarks in his stand up routine.

I think all of this kind of stuff makes people scared to say anything.