Ashley Furniture: Big Contributor Rakes in State Tax Credits and Federal Fines

February 10, 2015

Owners and employees of a Wisconsin furniture maker that faces nearly $2 million in federal fines for workplace safety violations have contributed more than $46,000 since 2009 to legislative and statewide candidates in Wisconsin.

Ashley Furniture in Arcadia, one of the world’s largest furniture manufacturers, faces about $1.8 million in fines levied by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for more than 1,000 work-related injuries in less than four years at its Trempealeau County plant. One of the injuries involved a worker who lost three fingers last summer.

OSHA said Ashley does not protect its workers from machines with moving parts or properly train them on how to service and maintain equipment.

The company’s largest campaign contributors are its owners, Ronald Wanek, and his son, Todd, and their spouses. Ronald and Joyce Wanek of St. Petersburg, Fla., contributed $22,500, and Todd and Karen Wanek of Arcadia contributed $21,000 to legislative and statewide candidates between 2009 and July 2014.

The largest recipient of campaign contributions from all Ashley employees was Republican Governor Scott Walker who accepted $31,800 between 2009 and July 2014.

Ron Wanek opposes federal workplace regulations, the La Crosse Tribune reported last year. “This is what’s going to kill industry in the United States,” he said.

Meanwhile, the company has sought $6.7 million in state tax credits since 2012 from the Walker administration to create jobs and expand its headquarters. So far, Ashley has received about $260,000 for its job creation efforts. Last year, Ashley Furniture won provisional approval of a controversial $6 million state tax credit from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. that would allow it to reduce its workforce by half.

The company had annual revenue of about $3.8 billion through last October, according to Forbes Magazine.