Walker Got Nearly $18K from Executives Whose Companies Failed to Repay WEDC Loans

June 10, 2015

Executives from five companies whose $5.6 million in state loans were forgiven by the Walker administration contributed nearly $18,000 to the governor’s campaign since January 2010.

The companies, whose loans were forgiven in 2013 and 2014 because the likelihood of collecting them was small, and the amounts of their loans were: Flambeau River Biofuels, of Park Falls, $3 million; Flambeau River Papers, of Park Falls, $1.6 million; Building Committee Inc., of Milwaukee, $500,000; Vantus Technology, of Waukesha, $250,000; and Soft Switching Technologies, of Middleton, $179,662.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker received $5,750 in contributions in October 2010 and April 2012 from William B. and Patricia Johnson, of Hayward, owners of Flambeau River Papers and Flambeau River Biofuels. Johnson and his family, which also own Johnson Timber in Hayward and several other companies, are longtime contributors to mostly Republican candidates for statewide office and the legislature. Walker’s campaign also received a $1,000 contribution in March 2012 from Robert Byrne, of New Auburn, president of Flambeau River Biofuels.

Walker also received two contributions in June 2010 and January 2011 totaling $750 from James Schroeder, of Waukesha, president of Vantus Technology, and four contributions in 2010 and 2012 totaling $288 from Douglas Kornetzke, of Fitchburg, an executive with Soft Switching Technologies.

The largest contribution to Walker from these companies was highlighted last month in a newspaper investigation and state audit. Building Committee owner William Minahan contributed $10,000 to Walker on Election Day, 2010. Later, Minahan’s company received the $500,000 state loan in September 2011 from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WECD), which is Walker’s controversial economic development and job creation agency. The unsecured loan to the company, which is now defunct, was made after a meeting between Minahan, his company lobbyist, and Walker administration officials.

The WEDC, which is chaired by Walker, has been criticized in several state audits and media reports – here, here, here – since it was created in 2011 for failing to properly award, document and track millions of dollars in state aid to businesses.