The news that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign finance chairman has been “selected” to develop the master plan for the Foxconn Technology Group’s project in southeast Wisconsin will come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to the Foxconn fiasco.
Walker, who attacked Wisconsin workers and neglected Wisconsin industries after taking office in 2011, knew as he prepared to run for his third term as governor this year that he needed a gimmick to address the impression that he simply has no interest in maintaining Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector. So he cut a sweetheart deal with Foxconn, a Taiwan-based multinational corporation. Under the deal, Wisconsin taxpayers would pony up as much as $4.5 billion for the corporation. At the same time, environmental protections would be weakened and the state’s most precious physical asset — fresh water — would be bartered off in an effort to create a fantasy of productivity and potential prosperity.
But the real story of Foxconn, like every other scheme Walker has hatched over the years, has been one of crony capitalism. Since he got into politics almost three decades ago, Walker has always made sure to take care of his campaign donors. So it was always a good bet that the Foxconn deal, with all of its promises of free money, would produce the biggest rewards for Walker’s biggest donors.
Enter Jon Hammes, the veteran political player who makes sure that Walker’s campaigns are flush with cash. Hammes has always been generous with Walker; he even poured $150,000 into a political action committee that was part of the intricate web of funding schemes set up to promote the governor’s failed 2016 presidential bid.
When Hammes is not taking care of his political cronies, he runs a development company.
And, lo and behold, the Hammes Co. will now be providing “planning, strategic advisory and development-related services” for Foxconn.
What luck! After donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to political campaigns, committees and causes favored by Walker, Hammes now stands to pocket millions from a deal brokered by Walker.
What a coincidence! Or not.
Walker and Hammes know this looks bad. So they are making excuses and they’ve even got a Foxconn spokesman describing the Hammes Co. as “one of the most trusted providers of real estate solutions in the United States.”
But even that spin acknowledges that Hammes is merely “one of” the companies that could have done the job.
Indeed, it is only one of the companies in Wisconsin that could have done the job.
Yet the company Foxconn selected just happens to be headed by Walker’s campaign finance chairman.
The choice inspired headlines across the country, like the one in the Washington Post that read: “Foxconn selects company with close ties to Walker.”
Wisconsinites should believe what they see happening right in front of their eyes — not what they are told by a multinational corporation's propaganda operation.
As state Rep. Dana Wachs, the Eau Claire Democrat who is running for governor against Walker and who has adopted the role of watchdog on the cronyism and corruption associated with the Foxconn deal, said: “I’m running out of ‘surprise and outrage,’ for all this back-door dealing Gov. Walker is doing. He’s lining the pockets of his campaign donors with TAXPAYER MONEY. It’s got to stop.”
Wachs is right. It’s got to stop.
Hammes should remove his company from consideration for this project. (Some people have suggested that he should quit as Walker’s fundraiser. But at this point, when so much money has already been donated to the governor and his allies, that would be a meaningless gesture.)
If Hammes does not step away from this project, then his real contribution to the 2018 campaign will be an argument for electing a new governor of Wisconsin who, unlike Scott Walker, will recognize that it is simply wrong for businessmen with “close ties” to politicians to profit from projects that are arranged by those politicians.
John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. email@example.com and @NicholsUprising.
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