PORTAGE — Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday declined to say whether he would support a criminal investigation into a $500,000 state loan to a failing Milwaukee company owned by one of his top 2010 campaign contributors.
The governor also defended the actions of then-Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, who pushed for the 2011 loan to Building Committee Inc., owned by Walker contributor William Minahan.
The State Journal found that Huebsch had pushed for a $4.3 million loan to the failing company and that it was the only time former WEDC chief executive officer Paul Jadin could recall Huebsch intervening on behalf of a company.
Walker said Thursday that Huebsch had merely “brought information about economic development possibilities” to WEDC and that the loan went through the same process as other deals. However, the State Journal found the agency cannot locate the financial review justifying the loan.
The governor added that the public-private agency has “added a number of policies and procedures” since that 2011 unsecured loan was made. He spoke after a groundbreaking for an $11.5 million expansion at Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics in Portage.
The State Journal earlier this month reported that the loan, pushed by top Walker aides including Huebsch, went to BCI at a time when the company was on the verge of collapse. The newspaper also found that two entities portrayed by Minahan as “partners” in the energy retrofit project were unaware of the loan and never received any proceeds from it.
The State Journal investigation also found that Minahan had falsely stated on the company’s loan application that neither he nor the company had been sued in the previous five years. The newspaper identified at least three lawsuits filed against Minahan and the company in 2010.
Two former BCI employees also told the State Journal they were offered reimbursements for making campaign contributions, which would be illegal.
Democrats, including two members of the WEDC board, have called for a U.S. Justice Department probe into the loan, but Walker’s office earlier called that “political gamesmanship.”
On Thursday, Walker brushed off a question about a possible criminal investigation, saying the WEDC board would discuss the loan “at full length” at its next meeting July 21.
Huebsch, a former state lawmaker, continues to work for Walker earning $129,000 a year as a member of the Public Service Commission.