Friday, March 4, 2016

Two reports this week hint that corporate influence in WI is on the rise

WEDC took WMC advice to not retain jobs; Sup. Ct. Justice Rebecca Bradley skips oral arguments to campaign

The influence that corporations wield on our state’s political system is alarming. What’s more troubling, however, is how little attention Republican leaders are giving to this crisis, and to a great extent are playing a part in transforming the state into a budding corporatocracy.

This week it was revealed that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the quasi-private-public entity charged with creating and retaining jobs in the state, failed to act on the planned closing of the Oscar Mayer plant in Madison -- because the state’s chamber of commerce directed it not to.

Officials with Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, an organization representing conservative business interests in the state, suggested that the WEDC stay clear of trying to retain Kraft-Heinz plants in Wisconsin.

No contact was made between the WEDC and Kraft-Heinz, and the results speak for themselves: the Oscar Mayer plant, whose parent company is Kraft-Heinz, announced late last year it was going close in 2016 and relocate its production to Iowa. The closure will result in the loss of more than 1,000 jobs in Madison, and was part of the devastating 10,000-plus layoff notices accrued in Wisconsin in 2015.

Local officials aren’t happy, to say the least. Madison’s Mayor Paul Soglin took the WEDC to task.

“You’ve got a state agency committed to economic development,” Soglin said. “Then one of the biggest challenges imaginable slaps them in the face, and they do nothing. That’s the bottom line.”

State Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison) was also upset. In a press release penned on Thursday, Risser wrote that the “WEDC has failed again -- [Gov. Scott Walker’s] job agency has proved to be incompetent in job retention especially in this case.”

But that’s only one example of how corporate influence has recently affected our state. It was further revealed this week that sitting state Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley, who was thrice appointed by Gov. Walker to her judicial positions (including the current one she’s in), had left oral arguments on a case the court was hearing in order to give a campaign speech elsewhere.

It’s bad enough that she left her job to go campaign. Where she went is even worse: Bradley left the Supreme Court to go speak to the WMC at their business day event in Madison, presumably to court voters from the pro-corporatist organization.

It’s already documented that Bradley is willing to compromise judicial ethics rules of the court in order to gain donation dollars, as well as stage photo ops with NRA garb to make certain gun voters know she’d have the gun lobby’s back within our state’s highest court. Now we also definitively know that she will cut her duties short in order to appease her biggest corporate donors.

Are we willing to let this stand? These two instances of Wisconsin’s new style of corporate-friendly governance should be deemed intolerable by the public. Whether it’s losing our jobs or losing our judicial prestige, we the people should not allow this to stand any longer.

We are not a corporatocracy. We are a democracy, and we should remove those from power who would try to otherwise change that.

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