Edgewater developers take over the Sconz!

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I don’t know how I missed this story but thankfully Erik Paulson kindly referred me to it. In a rambling post that reads like notes taken in a poli sci lecture, Jay Rath outlines the span of the Hammes Company’s campaign to enlist support in Madison for its plans to redevelop the Edgewater Hotel.

Brenda Konkel had voiced suspicions of lobbying violations earlier this week. But most of her criticism was directed at the city for bungling the lobbying reports that all registered lobbyists must submit. Now Konkel has officially filed a complaint against Hammes with the city attorney, and “the firm could lose its lobbying privileges.”

A firm with a multimillion dollar contract at stake definitely spent more than $1000 on its lobbying staff, Konkel asserts. This is a team of three lobbyists who have, according to Konkel, contacted 159 people on the job.

The best part of course is that public officials were only part of the lobbying effort. Lobbying public opinion was also a priority, which is why Sarah Carpenter, the director of community relations for Hammes, sent out this email to “supporters,” asking them to comment on newspaper articles and blogs.

2) Monitor and post comments on various blogs. Listed below are a few blogs
that we monitor daily. Please provide us with any positive or negative
feedback that you think we may find useful by sending me an email with your thoughts.

Brenda Konkel: http://brendakonkel.blogspot.com/
Laptop City Hall: http://www.madison.com/tct/blogs/cityhall/
Mayor Dave Cieslewicz: http://www.cityofmadison.com/mayor/blog/
Stuart Levitan: http://stulevitanscoopsheet.blogspot.com/
The Badger Herald: http://www.badgerherald.com/blogs/opinion/
Paul Soglin: http://www.waxingamerica.com/
The Daily Page: http://www.thedailypage.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=35
Madison.Com
Forums:http://www.madison.com/wsj/forums/viewforum.php?f=58&sid=7d558fd56927
50e2cbe096b9cafb044b/
Jack Craver- The Sconz: https://thesconz.wordpress.com/

“We will assist you by drafting and distributing key message statements so you can tailor your comments for specific audiences,”  Carpenter wrote in an e-mail Wednesday.

Interestingly, I haven’t detected too many Edgewater bots on the site. But the email was only sent two days ago. To any Mansion Hill pols reading: Welcome! Although I say I am not for sale now, I still encourage you to email me any proposals you might have.

The rest of Rath’s post was, as I said, rather incoherent. He makes all kinds of vague illusions to corruption and influence peddling by Hammes CEO Robert Dunn, however, he doesn’t really bother connecting the dots for the readers. For instance, for no apparent reason he cites Dunn’s $1000 contribution to Bob Dole in 1996. What rich guy hasn’t given Bob Dole $1000? He also notes that Dunn was a contributor to former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, who, like all Illinois governors, was convicted on corruption charges.

The dubious behavior by Hammes in Madison alone should be the subject of our scrutiny. The company had already won the support of most of this development-hungry community. The Cap Times and the State Journal have come out in support, the City Council seems poised to approve the project, and Mayor Dave also seems open to the idea. If ethics violations bring down this project, Hammes has some serious house cleaning to do at the top of its organization.

I will end the post however by applauding Brenda Konkel for her vigilance in pursuing this case. It is this type of investigatory spirit that is lacking in so much of local media. Government is not open and transparent unless there are people on the outside who force it open. As local newspapers continue to die, that’s a reality of governance that we cannot afford to forget.

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3 Responses to “Edgewater developers take over the Sconz!”

  1. Jen Says:

    i agree- kudos to konkel!

  2. Jay Rath Says:

    I’m sorry you thought my blog was “incoherent,” “rambling” and resembled “notes taken in a poli sci lecture.”

    I’ve found that when doing civic affairs reporting that the average reader is unfamiliar with the workings of local government, and so it’s best to spell out everything carefully. I also had a great deal of material to share, and I tried to organize it the clearest, best possible way.

    I was trying to report a pattern of past and current business practices, particularly lobbying and other means of attempting to project influence.
    It was a tremendous amount of work. I didn’t make a nickel on it by writing it as a blog instead of a newpaper article, and in fact I had to pay for reports from the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.

    • The Sconz Says:

      Jay – I admire your reporting and I understand that you may have sacrificed style by getting the story out as quickly as possible. I was simply trying to be as honest as possible in assessing the article – I thought there were some good points and some weak points. Just because I made fun of one aspect of your writing does not mean that I believe in its value. Obviously, I thought the post was very relevant.

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