And in doing so, Politifact tries to take Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate down with it.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in February 2014 that after 28 years of Milwaukee-based Derse-Wisconsin Highway Business Signs holding the blue signs contract, DOT had decided to give its next contract to Georgia-based Interstate Logos.
DOT said Interstate Logos, which is subcontracting with a Portage, Wis., firm for part of the work, scored higher in the bid process that had been set up and would provide better signs and better service.
That's the explanation from the state. The Walker-run "DOT had decided" to give the blue sign contract to an out-of-state firm. The Wisconsin firm lost by 22 points on a thousand point scale. End of story? Well, yes and no.
After the contract was awarded, and that's important, "after," did the winning company change their sign fees to match older fees charged by the more competitively priced losing Wisconsin company. Apparently, lower sign costs could not overcome a 22 point differential the first time to win the contract, but costs became a negotiable after-thought to satisfy critics later. The state said all of this is common practice.
After DOT decided to give the contract to Interstate Logos, however, the company agreed to use $30 and $10 fees that Derse had been using. A 10-year contract was put in place to start May 1, 2014.
Politifact was checking Mike Tate's statement claiming Walker is outsourcing jobs and paying more money for the "Wisconsin Welcomes You" road signs - they rated his statement false.
If Tate is guilty of anything, he did cross up which signs he meant while speaking on a radio show. Nevertheless, it was a huge mistake and wipes out his entire argument. BUT, Tate's office did admit to the mix-up according to Politifact. He indeed erred on which signs he was speaking of.
In fact, Tate's office provided news articles about the blue signs to Politifact which should have brought an end to Politifact's so-called "investigation" of his statement. Yes? A brief correction like, "Hey everybody, Tate meant the blue signs!!" would suffice. Right?
Politifact then points to a story from February that indeed shows the state making the decision to outsource the contract for the blue highway signs - not the "Wisconsin Welcomes You" signs. The blue signs are paid for by businesses, not by state taxpayers, and the cost of the signs was changed, but only after the fact as shown earlier in this blog post.
My point here is if you're a fact-checking outfit who was informed of a foundational error in a subject's statement and can accept which signs he really meant, then you should stop applying his understanding about the signs he didn't mean in your argument. Instead, Politifact kept claiming he's wrong, wrong, wrong.
Yet, in their summary generalizing Tate's statement, Politifact writes this...
Criticizing Walker’s record on job creation, Tate said Welcome to Wisconsin road signs have "always been made in Wisconsin," but Walker "is outsourcing them" to an out-of-state company and "paying more money for them."
But since Tate meant the blue signs ...let's apply them to the above statement please...
A.) For the past 28 years, Wisconsin's blue "business directional" road signs have been made in Wisconsin by a Wisconsin based business. That may no longer be the case.
B.) It WAS Walker's DOT decision to outsource the sign contract to a Georgia-based company.
C.) On two counts, one, that Derse complained businesses will pay more for the highway signs and two, after that fact, Interstate Logos "renegotiated" a lower price on the signs, would give anyone the impression, after reading early reports, that businesses will be "paying more money for them."
D.) Because Interstate Logos matched Derse's old $30 price for signs along the interstate, but only after winning the contract - they could state businesses won't be facing a higher cost with the new contract. But businesses would have had a better deal by paying less if Derse was chosen because Derse dropped the price to $21.
In this case, Tate hits a home run on all three quotes. But they are false statements IF referencing the "Wisconsin Welcomes You" signs.
The only remaining question left from Tate's original statements was whether taxpayers will be paying a higher cost for the WWY signs, BUT assuming he meant the blue signs.
It's the only statement Tate got wrong because the blue signs are paid for by businesses - not taxpayers. So three out of four ain't bad. Not ironically, Politifact doesn't bother to investigate Tate implicating taxpayer funding for the "Wisconsin Welcomes You" signs.
I'm not writing this to defend Tate. Clearly, he has the ability to write his own take on Politifact's story if he so chooses. But I do see vendetta-like political motivation by a so-called fact-checker to double-down on statements from an admitted mistaken narrative.
Of course, my main point here is not about Politifact. It's about Wisconsin state government, whether through its bureaucracy or legislation, having policies and people in key decision-making positions awarding contracts that seem to NOT take state-based jobs or state-based payrolls into account. Whether the contracts being outsourced are taxpayer or privately funded is totally irrelevant.
I brought up this same problem during the Skyward contract fiasco.
It seems the state would rather outsource a $50 million payroll if it means saving a million. Saving taxpayers money is the common political refrain, but it doesn't make economic sense if you lose an industry. Even though the blue signs are privately funded, the decision to outsource was not a private business decision.
If the state is going to "err" on awarding contracts, could they at least use their government monopoly of awarding contracts to create and keep jobs here? So we have jobs for our taxpayers? Yet according to the most recent reports, the Derse/Interstate contract mess saves nothing and changes nothing EXCEPT to potentially outsource a payroll.
None of this makes economic sense, unless it's for political payback.