Friday, August 7, 2009

Edgewater proposal subject of serious Rath

Jay Rath, writing for his blog at, has a massive takedown of the current Edgewater Hotel expansion proposal and its backers, the Hammes Co.

You really should read it. There are more than a few troubling aspects of the current process, and Rath goes into great detail about them.

Former alder Brenda Konkel is apparently now filing a formal complaint with the city over the company's lobbying practices, which don't appear to be properly accounted for in recent numbers released by the city.

In addition, Hammes Co. looks to have some seriously shady business dealings in their past (and present, as is the case with a lawsuit pending against them in Milwaukee). They're also asking for TIFF money from the city, though they appear to have ample funds of their own - as evidenced by substantial past campaign contributions to the likes of Bob Dole and George W. Bush, and more recently to a whole spate of local members of Congress and the like.

There's also this tidbit: "In all, according to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, Robert Dunn [president of Hammes Company Sports and Entertainment] is the registered agent of 18 active state companies, most of them limited liability companies (LLCs)."

This is fun, too:

Landmark X is the designated principal for Edgewater development lobbying. It has six registered lobbyists. Hammes also lists Landmark X as the "owner" of the completed Edgewater.

It's not unusual for a developer to create an LLC to combine interests during construction. The LLC Hammes is using is not new, however. Landmark X was created Feb. 6, 2004. It is "managed by members," according to its 1st quarter 2009 LLC report to the state. Whoever those members are, their business is "real estate, rental and leasing of property," according to state reports.

We don't know who those members are because the lobbyist registrations for Landmark X state that it is not an LLC, and therefore does not have to disclose that information.

According to the State Department of Financial Institutions, however, it is indeed an LLC.

Rath goes on to list a series of other lobbying irregularities for the company. Ever heard of the newly created Mansion Hill Neighborhood Coalition? It was formed as an alternative to the existing Capitol Neighborhoods Inc. group, and is chaired by a one Amy Supple--a registered Landmark X lobbyist.

And it goes on. Seriously, read the whole thing - it's a pretty epic piece.

It's hard to say what the truth of this whole episode is, and I'm not quite ready to say the whole thing is a bust. But I'll be damned if it doesn't look exceedingly bad. I'm glad, then, that Konkel, Rath, and a host of other concerned residents have taken up the cause and are giving the process greater scrutiny. A little transparency could go a long way to make sure we don't end up with one massive boondoggle the city would regret for years to come.


shane said...

The head of Hammes Sports, Robert Dunn, has had an interest in politics for many years. In 1996 he donated $1,000 to Robert Dole for President. In 1999 he and his wife, Julie, donated $1,000 to George W. Bush.

Not really the "substantial" amount you claim.

Emily said...

My use of "substantial" was in reference to the larger picture of how much/many donations he has made to various candidates, often maxing out how much can come from an individual donor. There's nothing wrong with that, it merely suggests that they do have money. I don't know a ton of people who can make 1k or more in donations to candidates on a regular basis.

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