The Wendt Gang

Richard Wendt Rod Wendt Steve Harper Ted Abram Bill Sizemore

Richard Wendt was born Feb. 18, 1931, in Dubuque, Iowa. He died, August 14, 2010 at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, OR.

Wendt founded Jeld-Wen, Inc., on Nov. 1, 1960. That first company operation was located in the old frame factory and had 15 employees. Window and door frames and cutstock were the first products.

Jeld-Wen has since become Oregon’s largest privately held company, reportedly owning more than 150 businesses world-wide, including door and window manufacturers and distributors, golf course and resort development companies, and insurance, advertising and real estate divisions. Before the recent economic recession, the company reportedly had 20,000 employees worldwide, including 3,500 in Oregon and 1,200 in the Klamath Basin.

Jeld-Wen entities in Oregon include Eagle Crest Resort in Redmond; Pelican Butte Ski Resort; Running Y Ranch in Klamath Falls; Gleneden, Grey Gull, Cascade Forest, and Harbor Links; time share resorts Trend West and WorldMark the Club; Omnititle in Redmond; Amerititle; Pozzi Window in Bend; United Window and Door in Stayton; Bend Door Company; BEN-FAB in Klamath Falls; Klamath Door Company; Advanced Wood Resources in Brownsville, a manufacturer of wood pellets for use as fuel; Challenge Doors; Specialty Fiber; Thomas Lambert; and Jeld-Wen, Jeld-Wen Real Estate and Jeld-Wen Fiber.

NextJob is one of a group of companies including Hire Calling Co., SOS Staffing and Employment Trends that Wendt founded or bought. He was also involved in Trendwest Resorts and JWTR, a large Northwest timber company.

Union officials in southern Oregon describe Jeld-Wen as an octopus that runs Klamath Falls like a company town. It has a hand in a local bank and a local auto dealership. It hired right-wing circuit court judge Ted Abram right off the bench as its energetic political advocate.

A mogul with a vision

At every stage, Wendt and his company Jeld-Wen have been key players in developing what is now JOBS Plus. The campaign started with 1990’s Ballot Measure 7.

Based on an idea Wendt had been mulling for 20 years, the measure, as written, was to abolish unemployment benefits, food stamps, and welfare benefits, and use the money to put the former recipients to work in subsidized or unsubsidized jobs at 10 percent less than the minimum wage. Wendt gave over $180,000 in cash and in-kind contributions to the campaign for the measure. It passed in every county but his own. [There in Klamath County, Wendt is well-known, and only there did labor seriously oppose the bill.] The measure was to begin as a pilot project in the six counties where support had been the highest.

Wendt thinks many of the disabled who receive food stamps can work.  “If they’re literally vegetables and can’t do anything then they’re already taken care of in other programs,” he said.

But Democrat Barbara Roberts, voted in as governor during the same election, declared Ballot Measure 7 “dead on arrival.” To be enacted, waivers from the federal government were needed; after all, the three programs it affected were federally mandated. The waivers were initially denied. Wendt fought to get a more acceptable version of the measure passed by the 1991 Legislature, without success. Facing the death of an idea, he sued Barbara Roberts to force her to work harder to get a federal waiver. Sheketoff believes the suit would have lost, but in any case, Roberts decided to negotiate a compromise with Wendt. She took this compromise proposal to the 1993 Legislature, where it was approved over the opposition of most Democrats in the House and Senate.

Under the terms of the compromise, unemployment, welfare and food stamps would not be abolished. Instead, a portion of their funding would be diverted to fund a subsidy for employers who would hire from the unemployment and welfare rolls. Dubbed “JOBS Plus,” the program would be used as one tool to get jobs and job experience for the chronically unemployed or difficult-to-employ.

Implementation of JOBS Plus required several federal waivers to existing rules; the waivers were granted in September 1994 and the six-county pilot program began in November of that year.

Right away, Jeld-Wen sent letters to businesses in the six counties and placed ads in papers around the state trying to convince businesses to take part.

The 1995 Legislature made further modifications to the program, and it went statewide July 1, 1996.

Here’s how it works:

Employers hiring JOBS Plus workers are reimbursed by the state for the minimum wage portion of the worker’s wages for up to six months, with no requirement to hire the employee at the end of the subsidy. Program participants receive paychecks instead of benefit checks. After 30 days on the job, employers pay $1 an hour into an individual account for the workers to receive additional job training and education after they are employed. They also provide a mentor for the employee. Finally, JOBS Plus hires have to be for new jobs – employers are not allowed to replace existing workers with subsidized JOBS Plus workers.

Business bear and the welfare honeypot

Jeld-Wen executive Chuck Hobbs downplays the extent to which his company has used state-subsidized labor and dismisses the notion that the company’s motive in pushing the program is its own financial gain. Hobbs denied that Jeld-Wen was unusual in the extent to which it uses JOBS Plus placements, but the statistics suggest otherwise.

Since the statewide JOBS Plus program began in July 1996, 130 workers have been placed in 13 Jeld-Wen companies. That amounts to between $600,000 and $800,000 in welfare, food stamp and unemployment benefits converted to a wage subsidy for the largest privately-owned company in Oregon. Just under half of the JOBS Plus placements were hired permanently by the Jeld-Wen companies at the expiration of their subsidized term; most of the remainder have found jobs elsewhere.

Incidentally, companies that hire people off the welfare rolls and keep them for at least 400 hours in a year are also entitled to tax breaks from the Internal Revenue Service. The biggest breaks go for hiring workers who were on welfare for at least 18 consecutive months before the date of hire. In those cases, the Welfare to Work Tax Credit is as much as $8,500 during two years, depending on the worker’s salary. As federal tax records aren’t publicly available, it’s not known whether Jeld-Wen has applied for these tax breaks.

But whether or not Wendt has financial motives in pushing JOBS Plus, he is clearly motivated ideologically and personally.

In 1994, to spread the anti-welfare gospel, Wendt founded and funded a non-profit organization, the American Institute for Full Employment (AIFE). AIFE works closely with Oregon’s JOBS Plus, and it also sends people to state legislatures around the country to promote the idea of converting welfare and unemployment benefits into wage subsidies for companies. [So far, such programs have been created in Mississippi, Texas, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Delaware.] On the AIFE website are links to right-wing think tanks – Heritage Foundation, Cascade Policy Institute, Cato Institute and the National Center for Policy Analysis. Because the group is a non-profit educational organization, Wendt’s contributions to it are tax-deductible.

In 1999 tussle over unemployment and welfare benefits broke out in Salem. On one side were organized labor and the governor’s office; on the other side, Klamath Falls Republican State Representative Steve Harper and the millionaire who helped put him in office – Richard L. Wendt.

Bill Sizemore, a political activist and 1998 Oregon gubernatorial candidate, received $50,000 from Richard Wendt for his campaign.

In July 2000, the Oregon Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers filed a civil racketeering lawsuit against two of Sizemore’s organizations: Oregon Taxpayers United and the OTU Education Foundation. During the trial Becky Miller, Sizemore’s top aide, under protection of state and federal immunity deals, testified in detail about the unethical and illegal practices of Oregon Taxpayers United. These included alleged money laundering involving both Sizemore and Americans for Tax Reform founder Grover Norquist, as well as falsification of federal tax returns and state campaign finance reports. Additional testimony reported financial deals designed to disguise or hide the sources of funding for campaigns, as well as to allow Sizemore to personally profit from the campaigns.

After three weeks of testimony and a million dollars in union legal fees, the jury found Sizemore’s organizations guilty of racketeering, and the organizations were fined approximately $2.5 million. Sizemore refused to pay the fines and attempted to avoid the liability by changing the name of his organizations to Oregon Taxpayers Association and carrying on with business as usual.[9] After a post-trial evidentiary hearing Sizemore was found personally liable for his organization’s civil racketeering liability, and the judge shut down his 501(c)(3) education foundation. Nearly a million dollars were added to the fine as a result of Sizemore’s resistance to earlier court orders/decisions. On appeal both sides claimed victory.

Breaking news – Bill Sizemore’s new best friend   January 2007

It seems that Bill Sizemore has planted his flag into the moonscape of Oregon’s land use laws and has at least one new sugar daddy to pay the way.

Last year Sizemore moved south to be closer to his BFF, Dick Wendt, the Jeld-Wen window magnate. Sizemore and Wendt aren’t new pals, of course. Wendt gave Sizemore more than $40,000 for his embarrassing gubernatorial run in 1998 and has been a loyal funder of his numerous ballot measures. But now the relationship seems to have gone to a new level. They’re even living in the same town.

On Dec. 7th, Sizemore started a new company, the innocuously named “Oregon Homeowners Association” based in Klamath Falls. Also located in K-Falls are Wendt, Jeld-Wen, and Wendt’s well-funded “think tanks,” Americans for Full Employment and For Our Grandchildren. Wendt uses these organizations to spread propaganda for his pet projects such as paying sub-minimum wage salaries to workers who are “in training,” and privatizing Social Security for the benefit of investors, not retirees.

Wendt seems to keep his misinformation machines well oiled. Americans for Full Employment had revenues of more than $6 million in 2005. Both of the Wendt groups are housed at 2636 Biehn Street in K-Falls. And in an AMAZING COINCIDENCE, that’s exactly the address of Sizemore’s new “company.”

Hmmmmm….

Well, as The Oregonian recently pointed out, Sizemore is an “initiative peddler,” and he certainly has a knack for anticipating political profit centers. Case in point: Sizemore has filed several measures relating to Oregon’s land use system at the same time the state legislature is discussing how to make Measure 37 more fair for regular people and stop big land speculators form cashing in on the change in the land use law.

Dick Wendt, one of the richest men in Oregon and an unabashed land speculator. His company contributed $47,000 to pass Measure 37 and Jeld-Wen is part of the Suncadia development group that is working to build 3,200 vacation homes on timberland on the eastern side of the Washington Cascades, near Roslyn. The land was sold to Jeld-Wen/Suncadia by Plum Creek Timber out of Seattle, the largest private landholder in America.

Hmmmmm….Plum Creek. Sounds familiar.

Last month – at the last moment before the deadline – Plum Creek Timber filed the largest Measure 37 claim in the state. They want to put up a housing development on timber land in Lincoln County. If current forest protection rules aren’t waived, they claim, the local taxpayers owe them $94.8 million.

So Bill Sizemore is living in K-Falls working on land-use ballot initiatives…probably living off of M37 funder Dick Wendt…who is probably in line to get a juicy development contract…thanks to the biggest M37 claim ever filed. Got it.

And to make things even more interesting, according to the address Sizemore listed on several of the ballot measures filed for 2008, he’s been staying in some pretty nice digs for someone who has said under oath that he has no income. The house at the address on Vale Street is a five bedroom, four bathroom $725,000 McMansion. Here’s a picture. My golly, you may ask yourself, where did Sizemore get the money for that? It’s unclear. The house is currently being leased with the option to buy.

Sizemore is also on the street with several ballot measures not related to land use. Signature gatherers are working in Portland, Coos Bay and Ashland, among other places. Mostly they claim to be employed by the Sizemore & Tim Trickey company, Democracy Direct. Meanwhile, the fraud and racketeering lawsuit against him continues on.

Wendt has some friends in common with Sizemore. For one thing, his AIFE is listed on Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform state groups page – a list of like-minded astroturf groups around the country. And Ted Abram serves alongside Dick Armey and Steve Forbes on theFreedomWorks Foundation Board. FreedomWorks and Wendt – and, of course, Abram – share a few legislative priorities: privatization of Social Security, loosening environmental regulations, and welfare reform.

In case you’ve forgotten, FreedomWorks in Oregon is headed up by Russ Walker, a party loyalist who teamed up with Sizemore on two ballot measures in the 2006 general election – using funding from ATR and FreedomWorks. Coincidentally, before FreedomWorks and Citizens for a Sound Economy merged and before Russ Walker became the brown noser for the boys back east, Cathy Epley, who had worked on Sizemore’s gubernatorial campaign, which was funded by a good chunk of Wendt money, headed up the organization.

To give you some perspective on who this Abram character is, he was an advisory board member of Brainstorm Magazine, a conservative news magazine in Oregon, for a long time. And he is a Senior Advisor to the Center for Global Economic Growth, which works to push the free market limited government philosophy all over the world and works closely with groups like the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, Americans for Tax Reform, and many others.

Boundaries between Jeld-Wen, JOBS Plus and AIFE are very blurry. Jeld-Wen executive Hobbs, a former Reagan Administration official, described AIFE as a “not-for-profit subsidiary of Jeld-Wen.” Phone calls to the AIFE phone number are sometimes answered “JOBS Plus.” Anita Moore, a Jeld-Wen employee, works full time recruiting businesses to JOBS Plus. Jeld-Wen executive Bob Kingzett also has a voicemail box at AIFE. When AIFE staffers lobby in Salem, they speak as Jeld-Wen employees. Bill Early, executive vice president of Jeld-Wen, has served as chair of the state JOBS Plus advisory board from the beginning, and Richard Wendt himself sits on the Klamath County JOBS Plus advisory board.

January 1, 2007

JWTR, a recently formed company owned by Richard Wendt, founder of Jeld-Wen Inc., has purchased 440,000 acres of timber Land in southern Oregon for $108 million, according to the Associated Press. A press release from JWTR stated it is not related to Jeld-Wen, but in addition to the mailing address, the Land deeds list JWTR in care of Jeld-Wen Inc. Officials at Jeld-Wen headquarters in Klamath FALLS, OR, did not comment on the deal. A statement released by JWTR did not give any plans for the property in Klamath, Lake and Jackson counties of Oregon.

JWTR is a private company categorized under Timber Tracts and located in Klamath Falls, OR. Current estimates show this company has an annual revenue of $2.5 to 5 million and employs a staff of approximately 20 to 49.

Richard Wendt’s son Rod Wendt is the current President/CEO of Jeld-Wen and an appointed member of the Portland Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, which includes nine western states.  These are his current board memberships and affiliations:

  • ·         Board Member – JELD-WEN inc
  • ·         Board Member – Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
  • ·         Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee – Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
  • ·         Board Member – Sky Lakes Medical Center
  • ·         Board Member – Trendwest Resorts , Inc.

November 20, 2010

Jeld-Wen has announced the sale of Running Y Ranch resort near Klamath Falls and two resorts in Central Oregon — Eagle Crest Resort near Redmond and Brasada Ranch in Powell Butte — to an investment company that focuses on hotels and resorts.

Sources

Oregon Live

Northwest Labor Press

Preemptive Karma

All Business

Herald and News

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2 Responses to The Wendt Gang

  1. Ann Onymous says:

    To find similar types in all the states, just look at who’s on the Fed boards like Wendt son. That will tell you everything you need to know. The Banksters own the corporations and the country and administer the legislation that comes out of DC via “The City of London” the HQ of the international banking cartel. Simple really.

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