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By James B. Nelson February 17, 2012

Gov. Scott Walker says $247,000-per-job CAPCO program was approved by former Gov. Jim Doyle

Issue No. 1 in Madison: Jobs.

Gov. Scott Walker and lawmakers of both parties say the state should be doing more, with much debate centered on proposals to boost companies poised for rapid growth.

The idea is for the state to use millions of dollars to "seed" venture capital funds -- pools of money that are invested in young firms with high growth potential. But legislation has been bogged down by a debate over whether or not to use state certificated capital companies, or CAPCOs, to handle the investments.

A previous $50 million program, which ran from 1999 through 2008, used three out-of-state CAPCO firms and had disappointing results. A Journal Sentinel analysis determined it resulted in the creation of only 202 new jobs at a cost of $247,000 per job. The Feb. 12, 2012 story said the program was the result of poorly drafted legislation and had minimal state oversight.

The headline: "State spent millions for 202 jobs."

Facing a near-certain recall election, Walker that day used his Twitter account to highlight the story as a failure of the previous administration, that of Democrat Jim Doyle. (Other tweets included the fact he stopped for ham and rolls after church.)

His tweet: "Headline ‘State spends millions for 202 jobs’, missed rest of sentence:, ‘under program approved by Gov Doyle.’"

In other words, the poor performing program was created under Doyle. And that’s where the blame should fall, Walker says.

Did Doyle approve the plan?

The legislation creating the program was introduced in 1997 and passed and signed into law the following year -- not by Democrat Doyle, but by then-Gov. Tommy Thompson, a fellow Republican now running for a U.S. Senate vacancy.

Doyle didn’t take office until 2003, five years after the CAPCO bill was signed.

Indeed, the proposal had bipartisan support. It was authored by Democratic state Sen. Gwen Moore, now a congresswoman from Milwaukee. Among the 89 members of the state Assembly who voted in favor of the bill March 25, 1998: Walker himself.

Walker’s tweet gained a broader audience the following day. WTMJ radio talk show host Charlie Sykes picked up on the topic and in a three minute segment linked Doyle to the CAPCO program five times. He called it "a Jim Doyle idea," and said the program was "one of Jim Doyle’s signature venture capital bills."

In an email, Sykes acknowledged that the program was created under Thompson. And he pointed out that Walker had tweeted on the subject the day before.

We asked Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie to explain the tweet, but he didn’t respond.

Our conclusion

In the wake of a story about poor jobs results of a state-sponsored program, Walker sought to pin the blame on his predecessor, Jim Doyle. But he was off by five years, two governors -- Thompson and successor Scott McCallum -- and one political party.

As governor, Doyle didn’t have anything to do with approving the CAPCO bill. But as an Assembly member, Scott Walker did. Pants on Fire.

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