MADISON (WKOW) -- Members of the board of directors for two companies that outsourced Wisconsin jobs after accepting financial incentives from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation have donated close to $20,000 to Gov. Scott Walker's campaigns since 2005.
Wisconsin campaign finance records show Plexus Corp. board members David Drury and Ralf Boer have each made donations to Walker's campaign. Boer, an attorney and partner in the Foley and Lardner law firm in Milwaukee, has donated a total of $2,300 to the Walker campaign since 2006. Drury, the CEO of Poblocki Sign Company in Milwaukee, has donated $15,800 to Walker's campaign since 2005.
One board member for the Eaton Corp., Gregory Page, an executive with Cargill in Minnesota, made a single donation of $1,000 to the Governor's campaign in 2013.
On Thursday, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign found the companies involved in the outsourcing made 85 percent of their state political donations to the campaign of Gov. Walker from 2011 to 2013.
According to a blog on the WDC website, the three companies - Eaton Corp., its subsidiary Cooper Power Systems, and Plexus Corp., donated a total of $6,500 to state and legislative candidates during that three year span, with $5,553 going to the Walker campaign.
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign is a watchdog group that tracks election spending.
On Wednesday, a 27 News investigation uncovered that Eaton Corp. and Plexus Corp. both received millions of dollars in tax credits from the WEDC for job creation and retention, but later outsourced jobs to foreign countries.
In 2011, WEDC awarded Eaton Corp. with up to $1 million in tax credits if the company met job creation and retention goals at its manufacturing facility in Menomonee Falls. WEDC officials say the company has received $190,000 in tax credits so far.
In April of 2013, Eaton laid off 163 employees at its Cooper Power Systems plant in Pewaukee and announced it was moving those jobs to Mexico. Less than a year later, WEDC awarded Eaton Corp. with up to $1.36 million in additional tax credits for a proposed $54 million expansion at that same Pewaukee plant. But on Wednesday, WEDC Spokesperson Mark Maley told 27 News Eaton Corp. "recently notified WEDC it will not seek any tax credits for this project."
Eaton Corp. is based in Dublin, Ireland, but has numerous offices and interests in the United Kingdom, United States, Indonesia, Singapore, France, Germany and Mexico.
WEDC awarded Plexus Corp. of Neenah with tax credits of up to $2 million in 2011 and up to $15 million in 2012. Maley says Plexus has received $4.7 million in tax credits to this point.
In July of 2012, Plexus announced it was laying off 116 workers from its Neenah facility. The U.S. Department of Labor has since ruled those employees, as well as all Plexus employees laid off since December of 2011, are eligible to receive federal Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) benefits. Those benefits are only available to employees who were laid off because their jobs were outsourced to foreign countries.
Plexus Corp. did not identify where it relocated those jobs to in 2012, but also has offices and interests in the United Kingdom, China, Germany, Romania, Malaysia and Thailand.
Maley told 27 News that even if a company has plans to relocate jobs at one of its state plants or divisions, WEDC will still work with that company if it also has plans to expand and create jobs in other parts of its Wisconsin operations.
"Even the loss of one job in Wisconsin is one too many, and the WEDC routinely works closely with companies that are considering other options to ensure that those jobs stay in the state. In fact, in the last fiscal year, our efforts have resulted in more than 26,000 job being retained in state of Wisconsin - jobs that were in jeopardy of going elsewhere," said Maley. "If a company makes a business decision to move some of its jobs out of the state - despite our best efforts - we will continue to work with that company to ensure that as many jobs as possible remain in Wisconsin."
Maley also says the financial awards given to Eaton and Plexus did result in positive economic results.
"Plexus made more than $110 million in expenditures and is undergoing a major expansion that is resulting in the retention of at least 1,000 jobs," said Maley. "Eaton has added 18 jobs and spent about $87,000 in training for its employees.
Maley also tells 27 News that any idea that WEDC awards are politically motivated is "absolutely ridiculous."
"I can't make it any clearer than to say politics plays absolutely no role in WEDC's decision to granting awards to state companies. Our awards are based on a company meeting a strict set of criteria for specific WEDC programs - programs that all have been unanimously approved by our bipartisan Board of Directors," said Maley.
27 News has reached out to both Eaton Corp. and Plexus Corp. for a response to this story, but has yet to receive any comment.
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