Epic has not run a press release for 18 years. In fact, the only advertising the company has sponsored was a billboard with the slogan, "Marketing Sucks ... Epic Systems."The notoriously publicity-averse Judith R. Faulkner made very positive news last week with her principled stand against a business association, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, and its opprobrious conduct during last winter's State election campaign.
Ms. Faulkner is a remarkable entrepreneur. She founded Epic Systems, a developer of healthcare information software, in 1979 with $6,000 and last year its sales topped $500 million. She remains in firm control of the privately held operation, which employs more than 3,000 and is looking for many more.
Judith Faulkner, much like a lot of us, didn't take kindly to the numerous and varied deceits that WMC produced attacking a sitting Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Louis Butler.
Last Wednesday, Epic published a statement referring to the campaign as a "travesty of ethics" and suggesting that WMC was largely responsible.
On Friday, Epic further clarified, “We believe that what we tolerate is what we stand for, and as corporate citizens, we stand for the preservation of the foundation of the judicial system.”
To that end Epic will "try to work only with vendors that do not support WMC with its current management."
Good for Judith Faulkner, and good for Epic Systems.
Epic management said that they could not support WMC's role in the Supreme Court race, which saw WMC pour approximately $1.8 million dollars into an ad campaign on behalf of Judge Michael Gableman.Whether that money was spent on behalf of Gableman or purely on egregiously deceitful attacks against Justice Butler is a close question.
WMC barely mentioned Gableman, likely because there was little to say on behalf of him to begin with, and especially while Gableman's own campaign descended to previously untrolled depths of patently false and disgraceful innuendo, a campaign Gableman actually claimed to have been proud of.
A University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of political science hints darkly at illegal activity:
Epic's threat not to work with another company based on an election campaign appears to be the first of its kind nationwide, said Howard Schweber.Why? Epic Systems isn't colluding with its competitors to freeze out or favor a vendor. It's acting independently. Vendor selection and purchasing policy isn't limited to commercial considerations of price and delivery.
"We should be uncomfortable when private businesses have enough power to coerce businesses or other organizations to change their political views or affiliations or keep them secret," Schweber said.
In fact Epic may only injure its own bottom line if avoiding WMC-affiliated suppliers results in higher priced or longer delivery items. A WMC spokesguy is defiant, or something, saying he won't be "intimidated." Bully for him.
Placing principle above lucre is nothing to be sneered at, especially in this case, where the principle at issue is central to the continuing success of the republic: the integrity of the courts.
In addition to the irony of the apparently unwitting reference to coercive corporate power — the abuse of which is Judith Faulkner's concern, not partisan politics — Prof. Schweber misses the point.
Epic's approach has nothing to do with partisan views or affiliations, it has to do with ethics, plain and simple. WMC waged a mendacious campaign of deliberate misinformation against a State Supreme Court Justice. Epic would prefer at the least not to mingle its lucre with that which is trading in sleaze.
Just as Epic can choose not to cut purchase orders to suppliers that engage in shady business practices so can it rebuff those connected to WMC's unseemly tactics. Selecting against WMC-affiliated suppliers is little different than purchasing only recycled toilet paper or only company bowling team shirts not manufactured in Bangladesh sweatshops.
It seems to me Epic's policy is laudable. Corporations may choose to express civic responsibility in a variety of ways, and this is one of them, based on a particularly admirable principle.
And WMC, having spent nearly $2 million on effectively attempted character assassination, certainly understands the coercive — and corrosive — power of lucre. If some WMC-affiliate suffers financially as a result of Epic's policy somehow, it will be a small price to pay for the sins committed earlier this year and beyond. Free market, the invisible hand and all that, coming back to slap you.
Prof. Schweber's discomfort would be far more accurately directed at Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and not Epic Systems.
eta: Without providing a lick of evidence for either assertion and indeed in the face of evidence suggesting otherwise, Rick Esenberg describes Epic's statement as a "threat" and one of Epic's building contractors' withdrawal from WMC as a "submission" to that "threat."
But he does admit he only "imagines" it.