A few weeks ago, I wrote about the ‘taxpayer-funded beautification of cronyism.’ In that piece, I mentioned that I was filing a Freedom of Information Request with the Arkansas Department of Economic Development to obtain more information about exactly how your tax dollars that were given to LM Wind Power were spent. Here’s what I’ve learned.
I requested the financial documents from AEDC in electronic format so I could share them with you. Unfortunately, AEDC said they were not available in electronic format–which is either a lie and an apparent violation of the Arkansas FOI Act because they didn’t provide the documents in the medium I requested, or a reasonable explanation for why the documents took a few days to arrive via FedEx. Typewriters ain’t fast, y’all. Plus, when you make a mistake, you have to start completely over.
There was approximately $230,000 given to LM Wind Power for “beautification.” According to the construction contract, here is how the expenses breakdown, with the corresponding contract value:
1. Bond – $3,678.00
2. General Requirements – $22,887.00
3. Fencing and Clearing – $19,500.00
4. Landscaping – $9,756.00
5. Segmented Retaining Wall System – $9,900.00
6. Concrete – $39,000.00
7. TAFS – $10,210.00
8. Masonry – $16,328.00
9. Signage – $41,250.00
10. Electrical – $5,000.00
11. Change Order #1 – $34,041.72*
What, no gargoyles?
*This expense only appears on the January 2010 report and does not appear to be part of the original contract. It is unclear what this money went towards.
Here’s a breakdown by month:
- Garver Landscape Plan for Industrial Park – $921.47
- Heiple Wiedower Professional Services on Sign – $5,450.00
- Heiple Wiedower Professional Services on Sign – $11,950.00
- Heiple Wiedower Professional Services on Sign – $2,152.15
- Contractor’s Application for Payment – $50,755.67
- Heiple Wiedower Professional Services on Sign – $1,500
- Contractor’s Application for Payment – $27,144.41
- Heiple Wiedower Professional Services on Sign – $1,000
- Contractor’s Application for Payment – $22,860.57
- Contractor’s Application for Payment – $100,052.34
According to billing statements from Heiple Wiedower, there was a total of $9,400 charged for Sign A and a total of $10,500 spent on Signs B and C (although LM Wind Power was allocated $41,250.00 for “signage”–it’s unclear how the rest of that money was spent). That must be some sign!
So this, apparently, is the role of government in Arkansas now–to fund, with your money, signs, flowers, and cement for the favorite businesses of powerful politicians. If you’re a business owner in Arkansas, you should be outraged: why isn’t the state paying for your parking lot or your landscaping? Why is LM Wind Power special? Maybe you should spend some more time down at the capitol, rubbing elbows with influential decision makers so you can get some goodies for yourself.
And this simple example reveals the real problem with this type of cronyism: not only does it unfairly redistribute and waste taxpayer dollars, it perverts the free market and incentivizes businesses to “game the system.” It gives some businesses unequal advantages and encourages other business owners to suck up to those in power–perhaps that’s why politicians love it so much.
According to the most recent report that AEDC provided from June 2011–apparently there have been no transactions in the last 15 months–there remains a balance of $6,111.39 in LM Wind Power’s “beautification” account.