Center’s Dee J. Hall receives Lee President’s Award for State Journal WEDC investigation

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism’s Dee J. Hall received an award for reporting from her former employer, Lee Enterprises, on Thursday. The Lee President’s Award, the company’s highest journalistic honor, recognized Hall and Wisconsin State Journal Reporter Matthew DeFour for their investigation into a failed taxpayer-funded loan to one of Gov. Scott Walker’s top donors. The award, which was shared with State Journal Assistant City Editor Mark Pitsch, recognizes the “outstanding achievement in any aspect of print and online journalism, from reporting and writing to photography, video, graphics and presentation” in the past year among Lee’s 50 daily newspapers. The investigation involved Building Committee Inc. of Milwaukee whose owner, William Minahan, had given Walker $10,000 on Election Day in 2010. The investigation by Hall and DeFour found one of Walker’s top aides, Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, had pushed for a $4.3 million loan to the company, which was on the verge of collapse.

In 2012, Kohl's Corp. was awarded up to $62.5 million in tax credits from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., in part to build a new headquarters and expand its Wisconsin workforce by 3,000 workers. But disappointing sales figures caused the company to pull back, instead opting to acquire and renovate space near the existing headquarters. The company also has created just 473 of the 3,000 jobs it plans to add.

Scott Walker’s untold story: Jobs lacking after big state subsidy of Kohl’s stores

In its first 15 months of existence, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. awarded $126 million in incentives to 24 companies without a full financial review. Some deals turned out well, others have failed. The largest — up to $62.5 million in tax credits to Kohl’s Corp. — so far has not generated the number of jobs or amount of capital spending promised.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and legislative leaders will not say whether he had a role in a controversial proposal that would have gutted Wisconsin's open records law.

Update: Gov. Scott Walker backs away from changes to open records law but is mum on his role

The governor and legislative leaders declined to say whether the governor himself was behind the original measure. A review by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism shows similarities between recent records request denials from the governor’s office and the state Department of Administration and changes inserted in the budget Thursday by Republican leaders — similarities that raise questions about whether Walker himself was involved in the budget proposal.

In Hurley, Wis., a truck passes a mural depicting iron ore miners in July 2012. Some residents of Iron and Ashland counties residents hoped a planned iron ore mine would bring more than 700 jobs to the area, but Gogebic Taconite pulled its plan in February 2015.

Most northern counties left behind by Gov. Scott Walker’s jobs agency

While cities like Madison, Waukesha and Green Bay thrive economically, northern Wisconsin counties have been left behind in the state’s economic development efforts. Local economic development leaders share stories of being ineligible for economic development programs brought by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, a quasi-governmental agency created in 2011 by Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Northern counties are also receiving proportionally less help from the WEDC, with many local leaders saying they are ineligible or unable to meet basic requirements for certain programs or incentives.