Saturday, June 28, 2008

Conservative? Don't Bother Selling to Epic Systems


Epic Systems Corp., the Verona-based electronic medical records company, is threatening to pull its business from local vendors who support the state's largest business lobby over a political disagreement with the group.

In a statement to the State Journal, the company cited concern over Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce's spending this year on behalf of state Supreme Court candidate Michael Gableman, estimated at $1.8 million, as a reason for working only with vendors whose officials oppose WMC's agenda.

...Howard Schweber, a professor of law and political science at UW-Madison, said he's never heard of another situation in which a business threatens not to work with another company based on an election campaign.

The Epic statement was drafted by company founder and chief executive officer Judy Faulkner, executive vice president Carl Dvorak and chief administrative officer Steve Dickmann.
Each declined to be interviewed.

...Faulkner has contributed heavily to Democrats, including Gov. Jim Doyle and Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's online campaign donor file. WMC funded ads opposing Falk in 2006 when she ran for attorney general.

Faulkner also donated $24,000 to One Wisconsin Now Action, a liberal political group that is now essentially defunct, according to its 2006 tax filing.

I'm with Prof. Schweber on this. I've never heard of this happening before (although it's enitrely possible that political connections have an impact on business which is un-reported.)

It appears that Epic's CEO is convinced that all her vendors are merely selling commodities--replicable in quality and quantity from almost anyone on the street--so Epic won't be harmed by purchasing inferior goods/services.

That, alone, should tell you something.

Apparently, $200 million of put-in-place construction is significant to general contractor JP Cullen.

Blaming WMC’s politicking for the “travesty of ethics” in this spring’s state Supreme Court race, Epic’s management announced that it would “try to work only with vendors that do not support WMC with its current management.”

That policy decision apparently prompted J.P. Cullen & Sons, the Janesville-based contractor of Epic’s ongoing campus expansion in Verona, to drop its membership in WMC and for its president and CEO David Cullen to resign from the WMC board of directors.

The massive Epic construction project -- the second phase exceeds $200 million -- has to be a major piece of business for Cullen, which finds itself caught in the middle of the Epic-WMC smackdown.

The dispute is so sensitive that none of the principals were willing to talk today to a reporter...

$200 million over 2 years is VERY large money for a general contractor.


Display Name said...

A big company throws its political weight around? You've never seen that before? Isn't that the very definition of groups like WMC? Who says the services they purchase will be inferior? It'll cause them to spend time finding new relationships and cause a few companies to question whether it's worth their time to participate in WMC. You praise the druggist who chooses to not sell contraceptives, but you think it's wrong for Epic to say "we don't want to do business with WMC members until the WMC Board changes course"? What's the big deal? It's the market - and the market for ideas - at work.

Dad29 said...

Perhaps your mind is not used to dealing with subtleties, John, but WMC is not a "company." There are other differences between reality and the Foust-spout:

1) I don't KNOW that Epic's new suppliers will be 'inferior.' But when you take out ~half the marketplace, there's a risk.

2) The druggist is limiting his MARKET, not his vendors (albeit some product(s) from some vendors will not be purchased by the druggist. IOW, he's not imposing his views on others--they do have choices.

Yes, the vendors to Epic have choices, too. But "buying" and "selling" are different things, John. Maybe some day you will learn that.

Display Name said...

Says the news story: "… After careful consideration, we made a decision to try to work only with vendors that do not support WMC with its current management. This was not a decision we made lightly, but believe it is the right thing to do."

So they're trying to work with vendors (people who sell things to Epic, right) who also express a desire to change WMC's direction, over those who don't want to change WMC. What's so crazy about that? Of course, many businesses are not members of WMC. Who says that's "half"? What's the big deal?

Anonymous said...

If a seller participates in unethical campaigning then it will be more likely to engage in unethical practices with buyers. It's entirely rational for buyers to avoid such a vendor.

Dad29 said...

John, where do you find me calling Epic "crazy"? You really should read more carefully.

Unusual? Yea. Some risk? Yes. Crazy? Loony? Despicable? Not really.

Anony: "Participates in unethical campaigning"?

Really. You mean just like One Wisconsin Now, and WEAC, right?

You're making accusations which you can't substantiate, anony.

Anonymous said...

What substantiation would you like? An objective code of ethics?

If so, you're living in a fantasy land.

Ethics are subjective. Can you substantiate that WMC's campaigning is ethical? Of course not. This is subjective.

In this instance it's Epic's ethics that formed the basis for its decision.

Do you support Epic's right to follow its own set of ethics?

Are you saying that Epic should not avoid buying from WMC supporters unless Epic does something about the slimy campaigning by One Wisconsin Now and WEAC?

That argument has no merit.

It's like saying that police should not ticket one speeder unless they ticket all speeders.

Police, just like Epic, have limited tools and resources.

Decisions regarding One Wisconsin Now and WEAC are not linked to each other or to decisions regarding WMC.

If you have an idea for a business practice that Epic can use to take a stand against slimy campaigning by One Wisconsin Now or WEAC then speak up. Contact Epic and convince it to join you.

Dad29 said...

If a seller participates in unethical campaigning

That's your statement, not mine.

By making that statement, you imply that ALL who support WMC are "unethical." People join WMC for a lot of different reasons, not just because of its stance on particular political issues.

So like I said, that requires substantiation.

No different than if I imply that 'all members of WEAC' are rabid Lefties, and are unethical, simply by virtue of their association with the union which ran ads which were sleazy during the SCOWI race.

Frankly, I don't give a rotten damn what Epic does. Nor do I hold WEAC membership against my teacher friends.

Beer, Bicycles and the VRWC said...

Anon gets out of explaining himself by claiming ethics are "subjective". Easy and cowardly.

That Epic is, in essence, strong-arming their vendors is beyond the pale. I would love to see an example of a business doing the same because they don't like Lefty politics from their vendors. Doesn't happen. But it will.