Driving that train

A day doesn’t go by without a misstep by Governor Scott Walker. Today’s revelations by the Government Accountability Board and the Milwaukee District Attorney that William Gardner, a huge Walker donor and the owner and president of the Wisconsin & Southern railroad, will plead guilty to two felony counts of campaign money laundering is merely the latest embarrassment.

The investigation found that Mr. Gardner, the owner and president of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad, directed the railroad company to reimburse 11 political contributions totaling $53,800 from himself, a number of railroad employees, an acquaintance of Mr. Gardner, and his daughter. The investigation also found that Mr. Gardner specifically directed or requested the individuals to make the contributions. The contributions and reimbursements were made from November 2009 through April 2010. Except for two contributions totaling $4,000 to former Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan and the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee, the remaining contributions were made to the Friends of Scott Walker committee.

Gardner himself will get two years probation, no jail time, and his corporation will be fined $166,900. Sound like a big fine? Maybe it’s not so much when you consider that Walker’s Department of Transportation provided grants and loans totaling $15,533,591 to Gardners company since Walker assumed office this year. On March 11, 2011, the Dept. of Transportation announced:

  • The Wisconsin & Southern Railroad (WSOR) will receive a total of $3,647,149 in grant funds to cover 80 percent of costs for emergency rehabilitation and reconstruction work on system bridges in Rock, Dane and Green County. A WisDOT loan of $455,894 will also be provided to cover 10 percent of the project costs. The remaining 10 percent, $455,894, will be provided by the WSOR.
  • The Wisconsin & Southern Railroad (WSOR) will receive an additional $8,867,515 in grant funds to pay for 80 percent of the total $11,084,393 remaining costs of Phase II rehabilitation work on the Madison to Milton, Wisconsin rail line in Dane and Rock County. WisDOT will also provide WSOR a loan of $1,108,439 to cover 10 percent of the cost of the work. Total cost of the three-year project is $19,645,893. Of that, $15,716,715 is WisDOT grant funds, $1,608,439 is WisDOT loans to WSOR, and $2,320,739 was provided by WSOR and the WRRTC.
  • The Wisconsin & Southern Railroad (WSOR) will receive a grant of $1,454,594 to cover 80 percent of the $1,818,243 total cost of rehabilitate 1.8 miles of rail line in the Waukesha area. The remaining 20 percent of $363,649 will be provided by the WSOR.

The Government Accountability Board and the District Attorney haven’t linked Gardner’s campaign contributions to the Walker administration’s pay-back suggested by the DOT grants and loans to Gardner’s company, but the whole thing stinks. The odor is particularly offensive when blown in the breeze of Walker’s mishandling of Federal high speed rail funds. When he took office in January, Governor Walker returned $810 million to the Federal government and shut down the project to establish a high speed passenger line between Milwaukee and Madison. That line would have cost the state about $750,000 a year and it would have provided between 5,000 and 10,000 permanent jobs.

Driving that train, high on cocaine
Scotty Walker better watch your speed
Trouble ahead, trouble behind
And that recall notion just crossed my mind…

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  1. Harold Babb
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 6:44 | Permalink

    And they say that crime doesn’t pay. Those people just don’t do it right is all.

    • Posted April 13, 2011 at 8:20 | Permalink

      I’ve heard an update that the probation agreement is contingent on Gardner’s cooperation and testimony as the investigation continues. Seems like the Government Accountability Board may have bigger fish to fry!