December 18, 2018
One lame duck bill that got little notice helps Ashley Furniture, whose executives are big contributors to Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
The bill, which Walker signed, extends through 2021 the time during which the Department of Natural Resources could award up to $14.6 million in state grants for a flood control project in Arcadia. The original award was authorized in the 2017-19 state budget. However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control project is unlikely to begin before 2020.
Arcadia, which is located in western Wisconsin’s Trempealeau County, also happens to be home to Ashley Furniture Industries, one of the largest furniture makers in the U.S. Arcadia is periodically affected by major flooding. In July 2017 Ashley employees had to be evacuated from the company’s factory due to flooding.
Ashley Furniture employees contributed nearly $77,000 between January 2010 and December 2017 to legislative and statewide candidates, and all but $2,500 went to Republicans. Walker received the bulk of those contributions, about $56,100.
The biggest contributors from Ashley came from the Wanek family, which founded and run the company. Ronald Wanek, and his wife, Joyce, who live in St. Petersburg, Fla., contributed $38,500, and Todd Wanek, and his wife, Karen, who live in Arcadia, contributed about $34,700.
The latest flood control project comes after the state approved controversial permits several years ago to allow the company to fill wetlands to build an addition to the factory. The location was subject to periodic flooding at the time and permit opponents argued that reducing wetlands in the area would exacerbate flooding and damage.