Gov. Scott Walker’s top aides and a powerful lobbyist pressed for a taxpayer-funded loan in 2011 to a financially struggling Milwaukee construction company that lost the state half a million dollars, created no jobs and raised questions about where the money went, a State Journal investigation has found.
The extraordinary steps led the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. in 2011 to award a $500,000 unsecured loan to Building Committee Inc., owned by William Minahan, for a proposed project to retrofit bank and credit union buildings for energy efficiency.
The loan, which was not repaid, is one of several agency awards that state auditors have questioned since Walker created the agency in 2011. Last year, WEDC, the state’s flagship job-creation agency, took the unusual step of suing BCI in an attempt to get the money back.
The failed deal was made at the urging of then-Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, who wanted WEDC to provide a forgivable loan to the company eight times that size, according to Paul Jadin, former CEO of WEDC.
Walker’s office confirmed that Huebsch introduced the company’s owner to Jadin. Lobbyist Eric Petersen, who represented BCI and Minahan, and Keith Gilkes, Walker’s former campaign manager who was the governor’s chief of staff at the time, met in June 2011 with Huebsch and Minahan to discuss the loan, according to records obtained by the State Journal under the state’s open records law.