Posts Tagged ‘Wendy Weiner Runge’

Tax Roundup, 11/2/2012: Iowa’s new approach to filmmakers affirmed. And more fertilizer!

Friday, November 2nd, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Promotional image for “The Scientist,” one of the projects of convicted film tax credit recipient Wendy Weiner Runge.

Jailing them instead of bribing them.  Iowa has drastically altered its approach to the film industry in the last few years.  Where it once lured them with lavish film credits, meaning free cars and cash, it now merely provides lodging.  From

The Iowa Court of Appeals has affirmed the sentencing of a Minnesota filmmaker who pleaded guilty to fraudulent practices.

Wendy Weiner Runge was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty in connection with Iowa’s film tax credit scandal. She was the owner and operator of a film company that applied for tax credits from the Iowa Film Office in 2008.

Ms. Runge said the sentencing judge improperly considered her combative blog posts as evidence of lack of remorse.  The appeals court held otherwise:

Similarly, here, the court properly considered Runge’s statements criticizing the court’s process and disparaging the prosecutors and the judge personally in considering her lack of remorse.

You don’t need to go to law school to figure out that if you plead guilty to something, it’s unwise to publicly rip the judge before sentencing.

Iowa spent over $30 million on the film industry via transferable film credits — another way of saying “subsidies.”  A state auditor report said that 80% of the credits were improperly granted.  It might have been cheaper to just imprison the filmmakers in the first place.

Link: Appeals court opinion.


From films to fertilizer.  The Iowa corporate welfare machine now is focused on a less glamorous industry.  On the heels of a huge tax credit grant to build a new fertilizer plant in Eastern Iowa, Iowa announced yesterday an award of up to $70 million of tax credits for a new Sioux City fertilizer plant for a different fertilizer company.

Between the two plants, the state has awarded up to around $180 million in tax credits.  This compares to budgeted net receipts for Iowa’s corporate income tax of under $400 million.

The state claims the project will bring 2,000 construction jobs and 100 full-time jobs at the plant.  If they max out their tax credits, that works out to about $33,300 per job, or $700,000 per “permanent” job.  Heck of a deal.  Meanwhile every other business has to cope with a horrendously complex state tax system with high rates to support these big credit grants.

The politicians love these press conferences when they can brag about bribing new jobs to the state.  Too bad they don’t have to call press conferences every time the state’s dysfunctional tax system costs a job.  But they wouldn’t have time for a press conference every day.


TaxProf,  WSJ: Owners Race to Sell Their Businesses by Year-End to Avoid 67% Capital Gains Tax Increase.  If you are going to sell anyway, I understand.  If you don’t already have a buyer, though, it’s probably too late to beat the rush.


Brutal Assault on Reason Watch: 

Tax stakes for entrepreneurs next TuesdayMy latest post at, the Des Moines Business Record blog for entrepreneurs.

Going Concern, Grover Norquist: No Matter What, Taxes Aren’t Going Up

Howard Gleckman, A Disappointing Presidential Campaign Comes to an End (TaxVox).

Kay Bell,  Making Obama, Romney tax plans add up

Linda Beale,  What natural disasters like Sandy teach us about taxes and government, and why NY City Mayor Bloomberg endorse Obama

Anthony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases of 2012: #9 -The Mortgage Interest Limitation Is More Complicated Than You Realize

Jack Townsend,  Relevant Conduct in Tax Cases

Robert D. Flach starts the weekend early with WHAT’S THE BUZZ? TELL ME WHAT’S A HAPPENNIN’ – SPECIAL FRIDAY EDITION

News you can use: 10 (er, 11) Uses For Leftover Halloween Candy (TaxGrrrl).  I heartily endorse the first two suggestions.


Ten years for filmmaker Runge

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

Fresh from the Des Moines Register:

A Polk County judge today sentenced Wendy Weiner Runge to 10 years in prison for her role in defrauding film tax incentives from the state.
Runge, of Minnesota, is expected to serve slightly less than five years for fraud.

Ms. Runge pleaded guilty to a charge that she defrauded the state to obtain tax credits to sell for cash. Her plea deal was reached in the middle of her trial on five felony counts.
Two of her partners, who had pleaded guilty in exchange for cooperation with prosecutors, received probation. After her guilty plea, Ms. Runge claimed on her since-removed blog that she was “victorious.” That must make the ones who got probation absolutely triumphant.
No word on how the sentence will affect her pending lawsuit against the state on grounds that state employees defamed her. If what they said she did worse than what she was convicted of, it must be really something.
The trial of Tom Wheeler, former film office head and lead scapegoat, is scheduled to begin in August. Charges are pending against at least two other filmmakers.
UPDATE, 5/18:
The long-form Des Moines Register article adds some details:

Judge Douglas Staskal criticized Runge, the head of Polynation Pictures, for attacking prosecutors and judges in public statements she has made and blaming her plight on anti-Semitism and “some sort of political conspiracy.”
Staskal said sentencing Runge to 10 years was a difficult decision because she had no prior criminal history, but he could not ignore the “complete arrogant and defiant” way in which she had denied responsibility for her crime.

As much fun as it is to blog, it seems that criminal defendants should resist the urge. The Register notes:

And in her ongoing blog about the case against her, she has repeatedly denied doing anything criminal and professed to be a victim of malicious prosecution and misconduct by state officials.

The blog has since been taken down, but not before she declared herself “victorious” following her guilty plea.
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