Love Triangle: Johnson Controls, Walker Contributions, and WEDC

November 18, 2015

Employees from Johnson Controls, which is laying off 277 employees after getting $1 million in state aid in 2014 to create nearly all of those jobs, contributed about $5,700 last year to Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s reelection campaign.

The state aid was awarded to the Milwaukee-based company by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). WEDC was created by Walker in 2011 to be the state’s lead job creation and economic development agency. Walker also led the agency as chairman of its board of directors from its creation through June 2015. The WEDC has been criticized in numerous state audits and media reports – here, here, here – for failing to properly award, document and track millions of dollars in state aid to businesses.

WEDC awarded Johnson Controls nearly $2.47 million in tax credits in March 2014 for two projects, including $1 million for its Milwaukee Business Center in suburban Glendale, where it will lay off all of its employees beginning in January. The company said the jobs lost in Wisconsin will be sent to Johnson Controls’ accounting and finance operations in China, Mexico and Slovakia.

Company employees contributed about $5,700 to Walker in 2014 when the tax credits were awarded and the governor was at the agency’s helm. Top Johnson Controls employee contributions to Walker in 2014 were $1,000 from Andrea Ferestad, of Mukwonago, senior program manager; $600 from Donald Pfeiffer, of New Berlin, an engineer; and $550 from Paul Thompto, of Brookfield, a control engineer.

Since Walker was first elected governor in 2010, through June 2015, Johnson Controls employees have contributed about $28,200 to the governor.