Here's a definition of return on investment, or, as the MBA kids call it, ROI:
- For a given use of money in an enterprise, the ROI (return on investment) is how much profit or cost saving is realized. An ROI calculation is sometimes used along with other approaches to develop a business case for a given proposal. The overall ROI for an enterprise is sometimes used as a way to grade how well a company is managed.
This simple business concept ran through the Brawler's head when he read this piece last week in the JSOnline Politics Watch (dated May 17) about the reason the WMC ran attack ads against Gov. Jim Doyle in his triumphant reelection campaign:
Madison -- Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce ran issue ads against Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle last fall even though its polling data consistently showed he was safely leading Republican challenger Mark Green, a WMC spokesman told an online news conference today.
Jim Pugh, spokesman for WMC, said polls all fall showed Doyle comfortably ahead of Green.
"Our research showed Doyle up and the lines never crossed," Pugh said of the polls, adding that the anti-Republican surge didn't help Green. ...
Doyle, who pushed much legislation that promoted business development in Wisconsin during his first term that he thought helped WMC, was angered by the negative ads the state's largest business lobby ran against him.
Pugh said the ads WMC ran -- on issues such as funding for nursing homes, the property tax freeze and tort reform -- represented the business point of view.
"Those are issues where the governor didn't stand with the business community, and we used our First Amendment right to explain those issues," Pugh told the audience, adding in an interview, "it's about the issues."
So it wasn't about trying to defeat Doyle -- it was about using their First Amendment rights to attack a politician because they disagreed with him on "the issues."
The Brawler didn't go to lobbying school, but he suspects if a trade association disagrees with a politician it expects to be elected, it's better to be civil than be belligerent. It's also better to stay on the sidelines if you suggest you're going to stay on the sidelines than jump in late in the game with a quixotic assault of attack ads. (Businessmen frown on quixotic allocation of capital, by the by.)
And the Brawler doesn't have an MBA, but he knows that the WMC's decision to blindside Doyle with attack ads was bad business. Rather than creating value, every dollar the WMC invested in those ads destroyed the WMC's goodwill with the Doyle Administration -- even though the WMC had strong reason to believe he was going to win.
In the business world, a manager who pissed away the company's capital on a value-destroying boondoggle like the WMC's attack on Doyle would, at a minimum, be called on to the carpet. And he or she had better have a better excuse than "it's about the issues."
As they say, a helluva way to run a business.
One of the healthier developments in Wisconsin's political climate is growing awareness that WMC is not so much a business advocacy group as it is (as Cory Liebmann said) the "sugar daddy arm of the Republican party." Liebmann notes that during the same speech described by the JSOnline report above, media representatives laughed out loud when Pugh described the WMC as an "issues group."
That's not good for the WMC's constituents. The state's business community is not well served having its interests represented by the WMC. It handicaps you with the governor. It handicaps you with the Senate. After 2008 it likely will handicap you with the Assembly.
And as the Capital Times reported last month, some businesses -- including officers within the WMC -- are starting to wonder if the WMC does more harm than good.
The Brawler hopes that more reporters will explore this question. Are state businesses, who often try to recruit from out of state, well served by a trade group that constantly talks about how much the state sucks and is a "tax hell?" Does that help with recruiting?
And here's an easy angle: Check for businesses/executives that donated to Doyle (even if they donated to Green) before WMC ran its ads. Ask them what they think of that shrewd use of their dues. The answers may surprise!
The Brawler would be remiss in writing about the WMC if he didn't note that Paul Soglin is the heavyweight champ of exposing the WMC's malfeasance.