Paper Peddles Bogus Foxconn Report
Puffed-up report by Walker crony swallowed whole by Journal Sentinel.
Yesterday was a low moment for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The newspaper’s front page story touted a new report concluding the state could get “a return of $3.90 for every $1 in state subsidy costs spent to lure Foxconn” to Wisconsin. The problems with the report are many, but let’s begin with the elephant in the room. The author of the “evaluation,” as he describes it, is UW-Madison economist Noah Williams, a fan of Gov. Scott Walker who sought a job with the governor as a campaign advisor and who previously issued a study of the impact of the Agriculture and Manufacturing Tax Credit that was quickly discredited.
Yet the Journal Sentinel story, whose headline announces that “Foxconn could return nearly $4 for every $1 in state subsidy,” never mentioned any of this baggage. It’s an incredible omission, and behind that is a story of how the media works (or doesn’t) and the unseemly haste to pass the multi-billion Foxconn deal before the problems with it are understood by the public.
So when the Technology Council looked for an economist to do a quick report on the Foxconn deal, it’s safe to assume they wanted someone who would be sympathetic to the deal. Even by that standard, however, the group’s choice is egregious.
Noah Williams served as an advisor to Scott Walker’s presidential campaign, as an Associated Press story by Scott Bauer and a Forbes magazine story have noted. Williams connected to Walker after aggressively selling himself to the governor, as university emails reviewed by One Wisconsin Now documented in a press release published by Urban Milwaukee. The Journal Sentinel never reported any of this.
Williams went on to write a glowing study of Walker’s Agriculture and Manufacturing Credit, which claimed it resulted in 20,000 new jobs. The study was dismissed in an analysis by our Data Wonk columnist Bruce Thompson, who noted, among other problems, that Williams study of contiguous counties in Wisconsin and four other Midwest states paired counties that are completely unlike in gross domestic product per capita without ever accounting for the difference.
Williams, in short, is an unabashed supporter of Walker, as suggested by the title of his Op Ed for Forbes, “Under Scott Walker, Wisconsin Has Prospered–Keep That In Mind For 2016.” Still, however, says he wasn’t aware of Williams background. He adds that Williams did the report for no pay because Williams and his Center for Research On the Wisconsin Economy are members of the Wisconsin Technology Council and Williams was “was following the issue, anyway, and produced the evaluation.” None of which lends confidence that this would be an objective assessment.
As for the Journal Sentinel, all a reporter would have to do is google “Noah Williams and Scott Walker” and the Associated Press story and Urban Milwaukee press release pop up on the first page. But the Journal Sentinel reporters apparently didn’t bother (the ever-shrinking newspaper still seems to operate as though it’s the only media in the state), nor did they report that the WTC is a cheerleader for the Foxconn deal.
As for Williams’ report, it offers about seven pages of analysis and immediately tips us off that this is hardly a significant study, calling itself an “evaluation” and noting its conclusions “are limited by time.”
Williams at first inflated the number of jobs spun off by the deal by 13,000, as he admitted to the Journal Sentinel. Even after the figure was corrected, Williams comes up with an even bigger economic impact from the Foxconn deal than the company, EY, hired by Foxconn to provide the best-case analysis. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has cautioned that the EY data on the spin-off jobs is “speculative,” but Williams ups the estimate even further.
Finally, Williams disputes the Fiscal Bureau prediction that 10 percent of jobs could be filled by Illinois residents because, he notes, there is currently a net outflow of Wisconsin workers to Illinois jobs. But this gross data tells us nothing about the specific skill sets required for the Foxconn jobs and whether enough of those workers can be found in Wisconsin.
All told the evaluation is weak at best, and hardly worth reporting given Williams’ massive conflict of interest, much less being heralded on the front page. The JS story was published at 5:48 p.m. on Monday and ran in print the next morning. Some time on Tuesday afternoon, the story made a change, presumably after hearing from Scot Ross of One Wisconsin Now, and added a graph noting that Williams “had sought to advise Walker on his unsuccessful presidential campaign.” The paper added this fact: “Williams also contributed $500 to Walker’s campaign, federal records show.”
Of course by that time most online readers had read the story without the additional information. As for print readers, the next day’s paper offered none of the information on Williams‘ conflicts. So far as those readers are concerned, a UW-Madison economist had concluded the Foxconn deal was the greatest thing since sliced bread.
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More about the Foxconn Facility
- Walker picks Foxconn over Wisconsin schools and roads - State Sen. Jennifer Shilling - Sep 18th, 2017
- Governor Walker Signs Wisconn Valley Special Session Bill into Law - Gov. Scott Walker - Sep 18th, 2017
- The State of Politics: Mr. Gou – Your Turn - Steven Walters - Sep 18th, 2017
- Governor Walker Applauds Legislature for Approving Wisconn Valley Special Session Bill - Gov. Scott Walker - Sep 14th, 2017
- Governor Walker Releases Statement on Bipartisan Senate Passage of Wisconn Valley Special Session Legislation - Gov. Scott Walker - Sep 12th, 2017
- WEDC’s Poor Jobs Accountability Record Makes Foxconn Deal a Scandal Waiting to Happen - Citizen Action of Wisconsin - Sep 11th, 2017
- Op Ed: Foxconn Deal Suspends Judicial Rules - Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - Sep 11th, 2017
- GOP Puts $3 Billion Foxconn Thumb on Scales of Justice - One Wisconsin Now - Sep 5th, 2017
- Op Ed: Foxconn Multiplier Overstates New Jobs - William L. Holahan and Charles O. Kroncke - Sep 2nd, 2017
- Walker administration misleads on environmental rollbacks for Foxconn - State Rep. Katrina Shankland - Aug 31st, 2017
- Murphy’s Law: Newest Deal Shows Foxconn Flaws - Bruce Murphy - Aug 29th, 2017
- The State of Politics: Would Democratic Governor Kill Foxconn Deal? - Steven Walters - Aug 28th, 2017
- Op Ed: Illinois Loves Our Foxconn Deal - State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout - Aug 26th, 2017
- Biking: Foxconn, Biking and State Roads - Dave Cieslewicz - Aug 25th, 2017
- Op Ed: Foxconn Should Embrace Green Goals - John Torinus - Aug 24th, 2017
- Washington State Representative Offers Warning for Wisconsin on Foxconn - One Wisconsin Now - Aug 24th, 2017
- Murphy’s Law: Paper Peddles Bogus Foxconn Report - Bruce Murphy - Aug 23rd, 2017
- Representative Lisa Subeck Calls on Joint Finance Committee Co-Chairs to Focus on Budget, Prioritize People over Profits - State Rep. Lisa Subeck - Aug 22nd, 2017
- Governor Walker Highlights Opportunities Foxconn Brings for Wisconsin’s Healthcare Industry - Gov. Scott Walker - Aug 22nd, 2017
- The State of Politics: Foxconn Biggest Deal in State History - Steven Walters - Aug 21st, 2017
- Statewide Online Tool Assists Wisconsin Companies Seeking to Do Business with Foxconn - Gov. Scott Walker - Aug 21st, 2017
- The Senate Must be The Grownups in the Room… Again. - State Sen. Tim Carpenter - Aug 21st, 2017
- Op Ed: The Many Broken Promises of Foxconn - State Rep. David Bowen - Aug 20th, 2017
- Rep. Goyke Statement on Foxconn Special Session Bill - State Rep. Evan Goyke - Aug 18th, 2017
- Wisconsin Budget: Foxconn Could Take Till 2058 To Pay Off - Jon Peacock - Aug 18th, 2017
- Governor Walker Releases Statement on Bipartisan Assembly Passage of Wisconn Valley Special Session Legislation - Gov. Scott Walker - Aug 18th, 2017
- Republican Agenda Puts Corporate Welfare Package for Taiwanese Company Ahead of our Public Schools - State Rep. Dianne Hesselbein - Aug 17th, 2017
- Rep. Sinicki Votes No on Foxconn Package - State Rep. Christine Sinicki - Aug 17th, 2017
- Statement from Rep. Barca on the Assembly Passage of Foxconn Bill - State Rep. Peter Barca - Aug 17th, 2017
- Facts on Foxconn Trump Proponents’ Protestations Deal Would Benefit Wisconsin - One Wisconsin Now - Aug 17th, 2017
- Foxconn Debate Cheat Sheet - State Rep. Gordon Hintz - Aug 17th, 2017
- $3 Billion Foxconn Boondoggle Sells Out Wisconsin’s Future to Foreign Corporation - State Rep. Lisa Subeck - Aug 17th, 2017
- Op Ed: How to Get a Better Deal From Foxconn - John Torinus - Aug 17th, 2017
- Data Wonk: Will Foxconn Deal Fight Poverty? - Bruce Thompson - Aug 16th, 2017
- Governor Walker Moderates Foxconn Roundtable Discussion in Green Bay - Gov. Scott Walker - Aug 16th, 2017
- Op Ed: Where Will Foxconn Find Workers? - State Rep. Gordon Hintz - Aug 16th, 2017
- Vukmir: The time is now for Foxconn - Assistant Majority Leader Leah Vukmir - Aug 15th, 2017
- Foxconn tax break could exceed $1 million per job - State Sen. Jennifer Shilling - Aug 14th, 2017
- Paul Ryan Challenger Opposes $3 Billion Corporate Handout to Foxconn - Cathy Myers - Aug 14th, 2017
- The State of Politics: 10 Tough Questions About Foxconn Deal - Steven Walters - Aug 14th, 2017
- Dana Wachs Announces Opposition to Foxconn Package - State Rep. Dana Wachs - Aug 13th, 2017
- Campaign Cash: Did Foxconn Lobby Illegally? - Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - Aug 12th, 2017
- Statement from Rep. Barca Regarding Republican Amendment to Foxconn Bill - State Rep. Peter Barca - Aug 11th, 2017
- Statement: Amendment to Special Session Assembly Bill 1 - Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos - Aug 11th, 2017
- Op Ed: Renegotiate the Foxconn Deal - Matthew Flynn - Aug 11th, 2017
- Murphy’s Law: Walker’s Desperate Deal With Foxconn - Bruce Murphy - Aug 10th, 2017
- Foxconn Deal Flounders in State Legislature - One Wisconsin Now - Aug 10th, 2017
- If ‘Ifs’ and ‘Buts’ Are Candies and Nuts We’ll Have Foxconn Deal Paid Off in 2043 - One Wisconsin Now - Aug 9th, 2017
- Rep. Shankland: Statement on Foxconn Analysis - State Rep. Katrina Shankland - Aug 8th, 2017
- Foxconn Fiscal Analysis Deeply Troubling for Wisconsin Taxpayers - State Rep. David Crowley - Aug 8th, 2017
- Statement from Rep. Barca on New Fiscal Analysis of Proposed Foxconn Deal - State Rep. Peter Barca - Aug 8th, 2017
- Rep. Hintz Statement on Foxconn Cost to Taxpayers - State Rep. Gordon Hintz - Aug 8th, 2017
- Campaign Cash: Bill Has $10 Million Giveaway to Fiserv - Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - Aug 8th, 2017
- Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce Calls For Foxconn Project to Include Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses - Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce - Aug 7th, 2017
- Wisconsin Budget: The High Cost of Foxconn - Jon Peacock - Aug 4th, 2017
- What Does the Foxconn CEO Say About His Employees? - One Wisconsin Now - Aug 4th, 2017
- Foxconn Hearing: Big Promises, Little Details, Lacks Transportation Plan - State Rep. David Crowley - Aug 3rd, 2017
- One Wisconsin Now Testimony on Foxconn Subsidy Legislation - One Wisconsin Now - Aug 3rd, 2017
- No Guarantees to Prevent Wisconsin Tax Dollars From Subsidizing Illinois Jobs in Foxconn Deal - One Wisconsin Now - Aug 2nd, 2017
- Unnecessary to Sacrifice Natural Resources for Foxconn - Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters - Jul 31st, 2017
- Statement from Rep. Barca on Foxconn Developments - State Rep. Peter Barca - Jul 28th, 2017
- The Contrarian: Walker’s Reelection Now A Certainty - George Mitchell - Jul 28th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Foxconn Loves Wisconsin, Walker - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 27th, 2017
- Governor Walker, Foxconn Founder and CEO Terry Gou Sign Memorandum of Understanding in Milwaukee - Gov. Scott Walker - Jul 27th, 2017
- REALTORS® Welcome Foxconn - Greater Milwaukee Association of REALTORS® - Jul 27th, 2017
- MATC Statement on Foxconn - Milwaukee Area Technical College - Jul 26th, 2017
- Statement from Rep. Barca on Foxconn Economic Development Announcement - State Rep. Peter Barca - Jul 26th, 2017
- Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele Statement on Foxconn Announcement - County Executive Chris Abele - Jul 26th, 2017
- Global High-Tech Manufacturer Foxconn Announces $10 Billion Investment, Will Create 13,000 Jobs in New Wisconsin Campus - Gov. Scott Walker - Jul 26th, 2017
- Foxconn Frenzy: Proceed with Caution - State Sen. Chris Larson - Jul 26th, 2017
- Shilling cautious on Foxconn announcement - State Sen. Jennifer Shilling - Jul 26th, 2017
- Op Ed: Loss of Talgo Train Hurts Foxconn Deal - James Rowen - Jul 20th, 2017
- Mayor Barrett Supports Siting Foxconn Facility in Southeastern Wisconsin - Mayor Tom Barrett - Jul 17th, 2017
- On the Air: How Likely Is It Foxconn Will Create 10,000 Jobs? - Urban Milwaukee - Jul 13th, 2017
- Murphy’s Law: Walker Building Yesterday’s Economy - Bruce Murphy - Jul 13th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Foxconn Lands in Milwaukee - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 10th, 2017