Wisconsin's Vos gives J6 committee testimony — reversing course after having sued to block subpoena

After initially going to federal court to fight a subpoena from the Congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos gave testimony to committee members Wednesday.

“Today I met with the January 6th Select Committee after previously receiving a subpoena for my testimony. I did not have any involvement with the events of January 6, 2021,” Vos said in a statement emailed shortly after 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. “My meeting with the Select Committee was brief, and I answered their questions regarding Wisconsin’s 2020 Presidential Election.”

Vos (R-Rochester) did not add any specifics of his testimony and did not address his decision to testify despite his pending lawsuit to block the suboena and did not respond to the Wisconsin Examiner’s inquiry Wednesday afternoon about either.

Press representatives for the committee — officially called the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol — have not responded to inquiries about the subpoena, which was issued Friday, Sept. 23, and served on Vos a day later.

The subpoena directed Vos to give the committee a deposition “concerning your interactions with former President [Donald] Trump regarding overturning the results of the 2020 election.”

The committee issued the subpoena after Vos described in a July television interview a telephone conversation with Trump that followed a Wisconsin Supreme Court opinion banning the longstanding practice of using drop boxes for voters to return absentee ballots. Vos said the former president urged him to decertify the results of Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential election.

“After you reportedly told Mr. Trump that what he was requesting is not allowed under the Wisconsin constitution, Mr. Trump posted derogatory statements about you on Truth Social and endorsed your challenger in the 2022 Republican primary,” the subpoena states. “The circumstances and details regarding your interaction with former President Trump related to the 2020 election are relevant to the Select Committee’s investigation and proposed recommendations.”

Vos sued in federal court to block the subpoena, asserting that his 2022 conversation with Trump was “entirely outside of the Committee’s authorized scope” and had “no bearing on the events and causes of January 6, 2021.”

In the weeks that followed lawyers for Vos and for the Jan. 6 committee submitted briefs arguing for and against blocking the subpoena. Then, on Oct. 24, the day that had been scheduled for oral arguments in the lawsuit, the judge postponed the case after a joint request from lawyers for both sides.

As of Wednesday arguments had not been rescheduled. Vos’ decision to testify Wednesday would appear to suggest that the lawsuit will soon be dropped.

The Associated Press reported that the Jan. 6 committee chair, U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, told reporters that the panel wanted to know “if there’s any more information that we can glean” about the Trump-Vos phone call. Committee members reportedly said Vos’ deposition was their last before completing a final report on the investigation, to be released later this month.

This story has been updated.

GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

SUBSCRIBE

Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

Dem Tony Evers wins reelection as Wisconsin voters split top state offices between parties

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers won a second term Tuesday night, defeating Republican Tim Michels, executive of a family- owned construction company in an election night that showed Wisconsin to be politically split right down the middle.

Michels conceded the race at about 20 minutes after midnight Wednesday, as Evers’s lead grew with more than 97% of the ballots counted.

Meanwhile, Evers’ outgoing lieutenant governor, Mandela Barnes, was narrowly behind in his race to block Republican Sen. Ron Johnson from winning a third term in the early hours Wednesday. The Barnes campaign ended its watch party before 1 a.m. Wednesday without either declaring victory or conceding defeat.

Johnson told supporters he believed the race was over but stopped short of declaring victory.

In addition to the victory by Evers and his new running mate, Sara Rodriguez, Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul also appeared to be headed for a second term. With 99% of the vote counted, Republican Eric Toney, the Fond du Lac County district attorney, conceded in the early morning hours.

In the other two statewide races that were up Tuesday, however, Republicans were in the lead by the early hours Wednesday.

Longtime Secretary of State Doug La Follette was trailing in his race for reelection by 21,000 votes behind his challenger, Republican State Rep. Amy Loudenbeck. With 99% of the vote counted, Loudenbeck had 48.9% of the vote to 47.5% for La Follette.

The secretary of state race had been closely watched because of the prospect that a Republican takeover of the office could lead to changes in state election administration under a Republican governor.

Also with 99% of the vote counted, in the race for state treasurer, Republican John Leiber was leading Democrat Aaron Richadson by more than 60,000 votes, 50.5% to 47.3%.

With 97% of the votes counted early Wednesday morning, Evers led the race for governor with 51% to Michels’ 48% for Michels, garnering a winning margin of more than 77,000 votes.

“Unfortunately, the math doesn’t add up,” Michels told a disappointed crowd at his election watch party, held at the Italian Community Center in Milwaukee. “I just called Gov. Evers and conceded. I wish the Evers family well.”

At Evers’ election party at the Orpheum Theatre in Madison, the newly reelected governor told a cheering crowd, “I’m jazzed as hell to tell you that on Jan 3, 2023, I will still be the 46th governor of Wisconsin.” He thanked his Michels, who he said had called him to concede, for a hard-fought race.

Some people said he was boring, Evers added, “but it turns out, boring wins.”

Evers thanked the voters for their “grace, kindness and compassion” and said “you showed up for me and showed up for each other.”

Evers then reeled off the issues voters “showed up for,” including reproductive rights, LGBTQ and trans kids’ rights, economic fairness, public schools and saving a “democracy on the brink.”

Part of the reason for Evers’ strength was his performance in Republican strongholds including the Milwaukee suburbs.

Michels, in contrast, failed to win as many votes as former GOP Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans in areas that have been crucial to Republican victories. Michels still carried those areas, but by less than Republicans’ historical margins. While Michels won suburban Waukesha by 21 points, as Craig Gilbert, a Lubar Center fellow at Marquette University Law school pointed out, Walker won the suburb by much larger margins — 33.6 % in 2018 and 45.6% in 2014.

Turnout in Dane County, the Democratic stronghold that includes Madison, also contributed significantly to Evers’ success. Evers won Dane County by 78.7% with 233,902 votes compared with the 220,053 votes he won when he was first elected in 2018.

But in the city of Milwaukee, another critical blue area for Democrats, turnout was down by about 40,000 votes from 2018. That was not good news for Barnes, a Milwaukee native.

As Evers supporters watched the returns on the big screen at the Orpheum theater, state Sen. Melissa Agard said some voters she spoke with during the campaign had told her they generally voted Republican, but were supporting Evers because they felt Republicans’ gerrymandered control of the Legislature was out of balance. Such ticket splitting might help account for the gap in vote totals between Evers and Barnes.

It could also explain the much tighter races for the other three statewide offices as well as the party shifts for state treasurer and secretary of state.

With reporting contributed by Ruth Conniff, Henry Redman, Baylor Spears and Isiah Holmes.

Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

Pastor warns about Christian nationalism, preaches alternatives for faith-rooted politics

In the months leading up to the 2022 midterm elections, Doug Pagitt has been crisscrossing the country with a message for churches, politicians and voters alike about religion and politics.

Pagitt is an evangelical pastor and the founder of the nonprofit organization Vote Common Good. His warning isn’t that religion and politics don’t mix.

Instead, it’s about how they mix — and how, he argues, a particular intersection of politics and religion threatens democracy in the United States.

That intersection is Christian nationalism: a movement to impose particular interpretations of Christian doctrine on public policy, using those doctrines as their own justification and with a willingness to enforce them with violence.

“It’s the belief that the United States of America is fundamentally committed to the Christian understanding and agenda in how it runs society and government,” Pagitt says. “There’s a movement afoot among a number of elected officials who are advocating for Christianity to play a more dominant role in our government — not just in our society, not just in public discourse, but in our government.”

Pagitt, who worked for some two decades in various churches and church organizations, is also active in progressive political engagement. He has voted for Republicans and for Democrats over the course of his adult life.

“The critique of Christian nationalism is not saying religious groups shouldn’t have a political voice,” Pagitt says. “The concern here is not what the preacher says in their pulpit — on either side. The real issue is people wanting to use the mechanisms of the government to enforce their religious teachings. That’s what Christian nationalists are doing.”

He organized Vote Common Good in 2017 after seeing Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election with, by some estimates, the votes of 75% or more of white evangelicals. Yet the former president ran on a policy agenda that contradicted beliefs Pagitt and many other Christians hold as central to their faith: defending the poor, welcoming the stranger and fostering peace.

“We knew that there were some people in those traditions who didn’t want to do that,” Pagitt says, referring to the embrace of Trump. “We knew they wanted an off ramp.”

Pagitt’s concerns grew, he says, at the way Trump and his political allies grounded certain decisions explicitly in religious assertions.

He pointed to the words of Trump’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, defending the administration’s policy to separate undocumented immigrant children from their families: “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” Sessions said at a news conference.

Then came the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection in which Trump supporters broke into the U.S. Capitol with the aim of preventing the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. The rioters directly assaulted members of the Capitol police and threatened the lives of Vice President Mike Pence, whose duties included signing off on the election certification, and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Seeing that helped motivate Pagitt and Vote Common Good to expand their agenda to explain and expose Christian nationalism, especially to churchgoers and leaders who weren’t aware of how organized the movement has become.

“The insurrection was a Christian nationalist effort,” says Pagitt, pointing to the prayers that leaders invoked minutes after breaching the Capitol. A recent Associated Press/Frontline documentary on PBS, “Michael Flynn’s Holy War,” about the former general and Trump advisor, explores the movement in detail.

Vote Common Good brought its mission spotlighting the Christian nationalist agenda to Wisconsin in October. Pagitt and his crew members made stops in Milwaukee, Waukesha and Dane counties, and Pagitt led a two-hour presentation on Christian nationalism for visitors to the McFarland United Church of Christ.

The discussion about Christian nationalism can get complicated, Pagitt says. Even with growing media attention to Christian nationalism, many people, including mainline Christians, don’t understand the concept.

“Churches that are not on the conservative right don’t tend to talk about politics,” he says — even as some are very active in calls for social justice in public policy. At the same time, “In the U.S. we’ve been struggling with the role of religion in government from the very beginning.”

Vote Common Good also aims to model an alternative to Christian nationalism in the expression of faith in public life. The organization seeks to encourage congregations to be willing to step into the discussion of policy and politics in ways that align with their values but don’t mimic the authoritarian Christian nationalist approach.

It’s not always easy to convey the concept. “We hear a lot, ‘Be careful that you don’t become the Religious Right, [but] on the left,’” Pagitt says. The goal isn’t to simply foster “Democratic Party” or “Green Party” churches. “We want to be able to help their congregations to engage in civic life.”

At the McFarland United Church of Christ, the Vote Common Good presentation went over well with the 45 people or so who attended, according to pastor Bryan Sirchio.

“What Doug was trying to do is wake people up, find our voice and get involved,” Sirchio says. “It shocked a number of people into a deeper level of awareness and realizing how dangerous and insidious this is.”

Sirchio sees the contemporary Christian nationalist movement as a descendent of the religious right that became widely visible in the 1980s through Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority and later Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition.

“The role that right-wing or conservative evangelical Christianity has played in our political process has been increasingly disturbing to me,” Sirchio says, and has become more extreme since then, exemplified by the Jan. 6 insurrection. Yet, he adds, “most people are not aware of the role that Christian nationalism played in the planning and organizing of that day.”

Sirchio describes himself as a political progressive and says his own understanding of Christian teaching informs his perspective on social issues and what makes for good public policy.

But he makes a distinction between those personal faith positions and the rationale he expects government leaders to apply to policy decisions in a pluralistic society.

“I don’t think God is a Republican or a Democrat,” Sirchio said. “I would be no more in favor of Democrats proclaiming that if you are a Christian, you must be a Democrat. Proclaiming across the board that a certain political party is God’s party is dangerous from my point of view.”

Standing with candidates

While Vote Common Good’s presentations to church groups on Christian nationalism are strictly nonpartisan, the organization in its own name will also step into partisan activity.

Under its federal 501-(c)-4 tax status, contributions are not tax-deductible, while the nonprofit itself is tax-exempt as long as no more than half of its activity is directly involved in politics.

Vote Common Good doesn’t make endorsements, but asks candidates to sign the organization’s pledge calling on leaders to “commit to an ethic of love in their public and political lives” and to work against the anti-democratic Christian nationalist agenda, founder Dout Pagitt says. Visits to Wisconsin and other states included events with like-minded political candidates highlighting their support for the set of principles.

“We’ve become partisan because no Republicans will take our pledge,” Pagitt says.

Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

House Jan. 6 committee to wait for court ruling before enforcing Robin Vos subpoena

The U.S. House committee won’t force Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) to testify before its next televised public hearing, if that takes place within the next month.

In a status hearing in federal court Tuesday, attorneys for Vos and for the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol said they’d agreed that the committee won’t enforce its subpoena before a federal judge rules in the lawsuit that Vos filed to block the order.

That ruling could come on or after Oct. 24, the day that Federal Judge Pamela Pepper scheduled for the lawyers to argue on the merits of Vos’ lawsuit.

The committee was scheduled to hold its next hearing Wednesday, but postponed the session Tuesday, citing the impending landfall of Hurricane Ian.

Vos sued the House committee on Sunday after being served with the subpoena Saturday afternoon.

The subpoena seeks Vos’ testimony about his conversation in July with former President Donald Trump, when Trump sought his support to overturn Wisconsin’s 2020 election results.

In his suit to block the order to testify, Vos cited the short notice he was given and said his July conversation with Trump was outside the scope of the committee’s charge to investigate the Jan. 6 attack.

At Tuesday’s hearing, which was held remotely, the legal team representing Vos expanded with the addition of a Missouri lawyer who has represented other Republicans in litigation growing out of the 2020 election: Edward Greim, of the law firm Graves Garrett in Kansas City.

Greim is a member of the defense team for James Troupis, one of the 10 people who claimed to be Wisconsin electors and submitted false paperwork that said Trump won the state’s electoral votes in 2020 instead of the actual winner, Joe Biden. The 10 electors are being sued on behalf of two of the official electors and a Wisconsin voter.

Greim is listed as a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association and the Federalist Society, an organization of conservative lawyers.

Tuesday’s hearing was held primarily to schedule the formal trial in Vos’ lawsuit as well as the briefs in preparation for that date. Greim told Pepper that no witnesses were expected to testify. The schedule calls for an initial brief from Vos, a reply from the House committee and a follow-up from Vos, the latter due Oct. 17.


Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

Wisconsin GOP lawmaker blasts elections commission over absentee ballot guidance

A clash between Republican lawmakers and the Wisconsin Elections Commission over how absentee ballots are processed took a new turn Thursday.

Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) lashed out at the commission and urged Republican leaders of the state Legislature to sue the agency over 2016 guidance that tells local elections clerks that they should fix minor errors on absentee ballot envelopes so that the ballots can be counted.

The commission responded later Thursday, standing its ground while rejecting part of the premise of Nass’ criticism.

On Wednesday, the Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR), on a 6-4 party-line vote, suspended an administrative rule that the elections commission published on July 11. The rule directed clerks to complete or correct missing address information for absentee ballot witnesses on the ballot envelopes, so that they could be certified and counted.

The Republicans on the committee argued that the commission had overstepped its bounds in writing the rule because state law requires that ballots lacking a witness address must not be counted.

Supporters of the rule, including committee Democrats, said it was an appropriate clarification of the law, which is not specific about what the witness address should include. Backers of the rule also said it would ensure that otherwise valid votes could be counted rather than thrown out because of a minor error.

The suspended rule was based on guidance that the elections commission issued in 2016. After the rule was killed, an elections commissioner noted that the guidance had not been revoked and therefore was still in effect.

In a statement Thursday, Nass, co-chair of JCRAR, accused the commission of announcing that “it will continue to tell municipal clerks they can ignore state law.”

Nass stated that he has asked the Legislature’s GOP leaders to seek a court order for the commission to follow “state law regarding absentee ballot certification procedures.”

The statement also directs clerks and election workers “to comply with the specifics of state law regarding the procedure for correcting absentee ballot certifications,” and warns that election workers who follow the elections commission guidance “could be exposing themselves to both civil and criminal liability for violating state law.”

A pending lawsuit in Waukesha County challenges the legality of the 2016 guidance.

Late Thursday, the elections commission issued a statement that denied Nass’ assertion. Commission members have not yet discussed the rule suspension, the statement said, and the commission “has not put forward any further direction since Wednesday’s JCRAR vote.”

According to Wisconsin law, actions of the Commission require a two-thirds vote of Commission members,” the commission statement said. “Because Commissioners have not yet authorized retracting the Commission’s separate 2016 Guidance on Absentee Ballot Certificate Correction, upon which the 2022 emergency rule was based, it continues to remain intact, as it has since 2016.”

The statement said that the commission members might meet “to discuss the JCRAR’s vote or to take further action on the Commission’s 2016 guidance,” but didn’t specify when. “As with any decision, Wisconsin’s local clerks, along with their legal counsel, can consider the recent legislative committee activity as they plan for upcoming elections,” the statement said.



Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

Republicans embraced Trump-touted Foxconn plant in a purely political move — but it backfired in the end

When then-President Donald Trump held the first White House press conference in 2017 to tout the prospect of a massive television flat-screen factory for the Taiwan manufacturer Foxconn coming to Wisconsin, Madison writer Lawrence Tabak was immediately intrigued.

“If nothing else, as a Wisconsin taxpayer, I was concerned that this was going to be a major spending event for all of us who live in Wisconsin," Tabak says in an interview. It also had a deja-vu quality.

Two decades earlier, Tabak had written a takedown for The Atlantic on the endless building spree of convention centers from one city to the next, driven by a revolving-door coterie of consultants who predicted they would revitalize local economies.

“It reminded me a bit of what I suspected was behind the enthusiasm for the Foxconn project," Tabak says. “Which turned out, of course, to be exactly the case."

Four years after that White House announcement, Tabak has written “Foxconned" (University of Chicago Press, 290 pp.), recounting the story of that ill-fated factory in the Racine County village of Mount Pleasant. The plant has yet to produce a single flat screen, and it has filled only a fraction of the 13,000 jobs that the administration of Gov. Scott Walker had promised in return for the state's $3 billion in tax credits.

While local officials continue to profess faith in the future of the site, plans for what the factory will actually do keep changing. The latest blow came in October as the prospect of manufacturing electric cars evaporated.

More than an exposé of the Foxconn project itself, Tabak's book is a critique of the approach to economic development of which the project is emblematic: the notion that government largesse can lure big employers to relocate and bring jobs that will transform a community, region or state.

Foxconn's original promise of 13,000 jobs tripled to 35,000 in spillover jobs, and there were visions of a Foxconn-sparked technology cluster to be called “Wisconn Valley." Walker handed out buttons emblazoned with the name at a meeting with business leaders in Milwaukee after he returned from that 2017 White House announcement of the project.

Tabak calls that “a ridiculous premise, as we've seen in what's happened over the last four years, but that was perfectly predictable."

“How did Detroit become Motor City?" he says. “How did Pittsburgh become the steel capital of the United States? How did Silicon Valley pop up in Northern California? It wasn't because a government entity and a city council or the city fathers sat around together and said, 'You know what? We need to give Henry Ford a couple million dollars to build a factory here.' These things happened organically."

Beyond the project's $3 billion price tag in the form of state tax credits, and the $1.5 billion in additional debt that the village of Mount Pleasant has incurred to provide infrastructure support for the site, there has been a human cost.

Tabak describes the political fracturing in Mount Pleasant and the role of local political activist Kelly Gallaher, who through social media has focused attention on the fiscal strain that Foxconn would impose on the community.

He also includes accounts of local homeowners, including Kim and James Mahoney, who built their dream home in the country only to see it seized by the village under eminent domain to make room for Foxconn's plant.

“I got to know some of these people who were devastated by this," Tabak says. Stories of how the homes of the Mahoneys and others were destroyed by the project resonate across the political spectrum, he adds. “It doesn't matter if you're a progressive Democrat or a Tea Party Republican — that's one thing you can both agree on that's beyond the pale."

'Economic development complex'

Tabak sees Foxconn as an especially dramatic example of what he calls the “economic development complex" of consultants, contractors and public agencies or public-private partnerships driving relocation deals where taxpayers bear the cost. It places the narrative of the project's sale to Wisconsin and its subsequent merry-go-round of plans against larger, overlapping contexts that help explain why that sort of economic development finds such ready reception.

Globalized industry and capital have sent good-paying jobs around the world to lower-wage havens, automation is remaking workplaces, especially in manufacturing. Yet Foxconn and its Wisconsin champions promised good-paying, blue-collar jobs when, in reality, comparable plants around the world are heavily automated, with the high-salary positions requiring extensive education.

Even before lawmakers voted to approve the company's incentive package, Tabak researched a large-panel factory in Japan that was the most similar plant he could find to the one Foxconn was proposing.

“It was pretty much the model for what would be built in Wisconsin," he says. “It was operated by 1,000 workers" — less than 10% of the number pledged for Mount Pleasant. Those jobs, and jobs at other, comparable plants he looked at, were mostly for engineers and technicians, not jobs that could be filled with high school graduates. In August 2017 Tabak interviewed a Texas expert on automated production, Mark Fralick, who told him, “Foxconn has a long history of overpromising and underdelivering. I just hope the government entities and municipalities involved don't get screwed."

When Tabak wrote about those findings for the online outlet Belt Magazine, he says, he found a “surprising lack of industry and exploration and curiosity from the politicians and state officials who were enthusiastically supporting the billions of dollars of incentives" that the Walker administration and the state Legislature threw at the company.

“Foxconned" observes other inconsistencies between how the company acted and what its government backers preached.

The project's most enthusiastic supporters allied themselves with Trump, who had campaigned with harsh attacks on undocumented immigrants as “illegals." But Tabak visited a Foxconn plant in Indiana in 2017 and heard about the widespread use of undocumented immigrant factory labor there as well as the company's reliance on the federal H-1B visa program to hire “mid-career engineers from Asia who would work for less than a fresh engineering graduate from, say, Purdue University," he writes.

He also juxtaposes Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, “one of the biggest boosters of the project," with the lawmaker's advocacy for a bill in 2006 to rein in the very eminent domain powers that Mount Pleasant used to acquire a tract of land that sprawled over more than 6 square miles.

Those contradictions were “pure hypocrisy," Tabak says. “It was astounding to me that a group of people who declared themselves Tea Party Republicans, whose premise was free enterprise, small government and America first, could be so enthusiastic about giving our tax money to an Asian corporation with such a jaded history. It just made no sense."

Overlooking visible evidence

The political leaders who embraced Foxconn, Tabak contends, were operating from a “kind of faith-based economic policy" that overlooked evidence visible from the start that the promises the company made weren't viable. And he writes off Walker's embrace of the project as a purely political calculation, “a huge splashy event that he thought would save his election" in 2018, he says — one that backfired in the end.

Tabak says he's not certain whether Walker and his associates knew it was a bad deal and didn't care because it served their political agenda, or whether they were simply duped by the company and its bargaining team. Regardless of the answer, the beneficiaries of the project were “well-connected consultants and contractors," he says — “a small circle of insiders who have made out like bandits."

Government can play a role in fostering jobs and economic prosperity, Tabak says — not by doling out cash incentives to lure employers, but by investing in resources such as the university system that can be an “engine … for really high-quality jobs."

Since Gov. Tony Evers defeated Walker in that 2018 election, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) — which figures heavily in his book for its role in promoting Foxconn — has shifted to “more fundamental developmental work rather than big-ticket economic splashes," Tabak says. But he worries that the U.S. continues to be in the grip of bidding wars among states, to the detriment of communities and the economy as a whole.

The state's renegotiation earlier this year of the Foxconn agreement was arguably forced on the Evers administration, Tabak says. “It was in their interest to come up with a deal that would keep Foxconn active in Wisconsin, and incented to pay its property taxes."

Because of how the original tax credit deal was written, the state hasn't yet had to write checks to Foxconn. But Racine County and Mount Pleasant still have the local debt for roads and site development they incurred hanging over their heads, he observes, and Wisconsin is still bound by a “moral obligation" to support those bonds written into the original legislation.

“You and I and other Wisconsin residents," Tabak says, “are going to be paying the price of that — backing those bad decisions that were made by local officials."


Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

IN OTHER NEWS: Trump Republicans claim Liz Cheney is no longer a 'true republican'

Trump Republicans claim Liz Cheney is no longer a 'true republican' www.youtube.com

Republican lawmakers: Give jobless pay to workers who reject COVID-19 vaccine requirements

A GOP-authored proposal to grant unemployment pay to employees who quit their jobs to avoid a COVID-19 vaccine has exactly the wrong end of the stick, a small business lobbying group says.

This article was originally published at Wisconsin Examiner

“The best thing that can be done to help address labor shortages and help small businesses is to increase vaccination rates," according to Main Street Alliance, which issued a statement Friday morning on the draft legislation.

In an unusual move, Gov. Tony Evers' office swiftly announced the governor's intentions for the proposal should it reach his desk. “.@GovEvers will veto this bill," tweeted spokesperson Britt Cudaback just before 6 p.m. Thursday. (Evers rarely threatens a veto outright, even when Capitol observers are fairly confident of his intentions.)

The draft bill and a co-sponsorship memo surfaced Thursday and were first reported on Twitter by Scott Gordon, the publisher of the culture news and commentary website Tone Madison.

The proposal would create an exemption to Wisconsin's unemployment insurance law that would allow someone who is fired or voluntarily quits because an employer requires a COVID-19 vaccine, or proof of vaccination, to collect unemployment compensation.

The lead sponsors of the legislation are Reps. Robert Brooks (R-Saukville), Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) and Rick Gundrum (R-Slinger) and Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville).

“Individuals are better able to determine their personal healthcare needs than government bureaucrats, elected officials, or employers," the co-sponsorship memo from the authors declares. “Protecting those rights is of paramount importance."

The legislation's origins were in striking contrast to the stances that Wisconsin Republican lawmakers, including the sponsors, have taken to put tighter controls and restrictions on applicants for unemployment insurance (UI).

In May, Stroebel voted with the Republican majority when a joint legislative committee reinstated a requirement that people collecting jobless pay undertake four work searches every week. The requirement had been suspended under an emergency rule early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Twitter, unemployment compensation lawyer Victor Forberger observed that by ending the emergency rule, Republicans had also removed “progressive emergency regs that allowed regular UI because you stayed out of work because of covid."

The four co-authors of the new proposal also voted with GOP majorities in both houses of the Legislature voting to cut off a federal $300 pandemic supplement to unemployed workers. Evers vetoed the legislation, and a party-line vote fell short of the two-thirds needed to override the veto. That payment automatically ends Sept. 4.

Republican lawmakers pushing to end the supplement have repeatedly contended it was responsible for labor shortages because with the extra pay, workers were getting paid more to stay home — although there has been little evidence for the claim.

On Brooks' Facebook page on July 27, just below his post touting the new proposal and another in which he opposes employer-mandated vaccinations, he laments the Legislature's unsuccessful effort to end the federal supplement through the override vote.

The state's largest business lobbying group, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, which has lobbied heavily to end the federal supplement, didn't immediately respond Friday to an inquiry about whether it supports letting people collect jobless pay who are fired or who quit after rejecting an employer's vaccine requirement.

But Main Street Alliance, which represents small businesses and has opposed cutting off the federal supplement, said the draft bill would “make it harder to recover from the pandemic."

The Alliance criticized the Legislature's Republican majority for “spending the better part of the past six months scapegoating enhanced unemployment insurance and workers across our state for labor shortages in some industries." The group urged lawmakers “to stop this quixotic effort" and for Evers to veto the legislation if it passes.

In its statement, Main Street Alliance cited recent research from Gusto, a human resources consultant. In July, the firm published a report stating that “aggregate employment in service-sector businesses is little different across states opting to end these benefits early compared to those who have not."

The Gusto report recommended that instead of ending the federal supplement before its September expiration, “policymakers would be better-served by focusing on achieving higher vaccination rates and ensuring schools and child care centers can re-open in a safe and timely manner."


Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.