By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker’s office was copied on a letter acknowledging that his flagship job creation agency would give a $500,000 loan to a campaign donor’s construction company, raising questions about his statements that he wasn’t aware of the deal.
Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said the Republican governor never received a copy of the letter and reiterated Tuesday that he wasn’t involved in or aware the loan process to Building Committee Inc.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported Sunday that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. gave BCI the unsecured, taxpayer-backed loan in 2011. The now-defunct company’s owner, William Minahan, gave Walker’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign $10,000, the maximum individual contribution allowed under state law.
BCI never repaid the loan and didn’t use the money to create any jobs, according to the State Journal report. Democrats called Monday for a federal investigation into whether the loan amounted to an improper political favor.
Walker, who serves as WEDC’s chairman and is preparing for potential 2016 presidential run, told The Associated Press on Monday that he wasn’t aware of any part of the BCI loan process. Patrick said the governor wasn’t aware Minahan had contributed to his campaign.
But Paul Jadin, then WEDC’s chief executive, sent a letter in September 2011 to Minahan announcing that WEDC would provide BCI with the loan and detailing the terms. Jadin began the letter by saying he was writing on Walker’s behalf. The letter ends with a line noting that Walker had been copied in.
“In closing Governor Walker and I are firmly committed to doing everything possible to expedite the processing and awarding of this incentive award,” Jadin wrote.
Patrick said in an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday that a review of the governor’s files failed to produce the letter. She said the letter used “template language” that WEDC initially used for award letters and the governor wasn’t receiving copies of any such letters.
Walker has called for the WEDC’s board to discuss the loan at its next meeting on July 20.
Walker created the WEDC as a private-public partnership to replace the state Commerce Department shortly after he began his first term as governor in 2011. State audits have revealed mismanagement and a failure to track past-due loans. The agency also has seen extensive turnover in its leadership ranks. An audit just this month revealed the agency has failed to follow state contract law and hasn’t tracked job creation.