Tim Michels' business fined for damaging roads while Wisconsin paid it to fix them

2000

The Republican nominee for Wisconsin governor's company has taken in hundreds of millions of dollars in state road contracts.

Republican nominee for governor of Wisconsin Tim Michels' construction company has been fined 11 times for running overweight trucks on Wisconsin roads in the last five years — even as the company received more than half a billion dollars in state contracts to repair Wisconsin's roads.

Michels, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, is locked in a tied race with incumbent Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

Michels Corporation, jointly owned by the Republican nominee and his brothers, is one of the top recipients of state contracts. Over the last five years the firm has received $567 million to repair Wisconsin's roads and bridges. In the same time frame, the multi-billion dollar company, which employs 8,000 people, was fined more than $21,000 for running vehicles on state roads in violation of weight limit statutes, according to a review by the American Independent Foundation.

Violating the weight limit can damage roads, according to the Wisconsin Towns Association, a nonprofit, nonpartisan association of town and village governments.

The association believes state agencies need to protect roads:

"Wisconsin's extensive local road system is a lifeline for our state and local economies. Farms and businesses depend heavily on these roads to move manufactured, forest and agricultural products. Highway and street agencies need them to economically transport road building materials. The public also relies on truck transportation to receive goods at reasonable prices."

Two of the Michels Corporation's violations were in Winnebago County, five were in Racine, three were in Dane, and one was in St. Croix.

The Michels Corporation has been accused on multiple occasions of excessively profiting from Wisconsin government contracts. An analysis by Wisconsin Right Now, a conservative website, found that the Michels Corporation made over $550 million on road maintenance contracts over the past five years.

Since the start of his campaign some observers have questioned how Michels would navigate the conflicts of interest between his family business and his duties as governor, which would include personally signing any state contract worth more than $1,000. Back in April, during the Republican primary, Michels said that he "would hope" that the Michels Corporation would continue to compete for state contracts and that he was no longer on the firm's payroll. However, he has so far maintained his ownership stake.

Michels says he will divest from his family business if he wins next week's gubernatorial election, but he has provided scant details about how he would do so.

Anne-Marie Rhodes, a professor at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law who teaches courses on trust and estate law, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that any path to divestment is "a really narrow one along a very steep cliff."

Michels trails Evers in campaign spending and fundraising, even though he spent nearly $20 million of his own money boosting his bid, 80% of what his campaign reported after the last campaign finance report deadline. Michels' brothers, who co-own Michels Corporation, have given $1.5 million to the state Republican Party.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report has called the race a toss-up.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.