Some Wisconsin politicians are treating legislation to fast-track an open-pit iron mine in northern Wisconsin as their own personal gold mine.
It’s no secret that Gogebic Taconite, the mining company seeking to build an iron ore strip mine in northern Wisconsin has been heavily lobbying legislators to rollback Wisconsin’s mining laws. What’s lesser known is the extent that Gogebic Taconite, its owner Chris Cline, and the Cline Group, as well as various syndicates of those entities have been filling the coffers of candidates and elected officials. And you thought they only wanted to fill in wetlands!
The campaign money watchdog group, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, has released a damning report that shows that Cline and his affiliates have given over $40,000 in campaign cash to just five candidates for office.1
With $10,000 in campaign cash from Gogebic Taconite’s executives – $8,000 of which came from the head-honcho, out-of-state coal baron, Christopher Cline himself, it is no surprise that Governor Walker has put AB 426 at the top of his to-do list.
Cline and his affiliates spread the gifts around all corners of the state. South Milwaukee’s Mark Honadel, one of the purported authors of AB 426, has received sizable campaign contributions to get the ball rolling on this legislation. Senate and Assembly Majority Leaders Scott and Jeff Fitzgerald – who are pushing for this legislation – have also received generous campaign contributions from the out-of-state developer.2 Cline and company have not always been able to pick winners. They gave big money to ousted Democratic Senator Jeffrey Plale, who was defeated by Chris Larson in a 2010 Democratic primary despite the help of $20,250 in Cline campaign cash. Currently Plale serves in the Walker administration as Railroad Commissioner.3 All aboard the gravy train!
Shirl Labarre, another candidate on the Cline-supported loser list, is currently leading the recall effort against Senator Bob Jauch, but there’s been speculation that LaBarre is angling for a Senate run herself.4 Given her prior contributions from Cline, we can bet that she will be running to the open arms of the Cline crew and their checkbooks and tripping over herself to give Gogebic Taconite whatever legislation they want, no matter the cost to clean air and water.
While they haven’t turned over a shovel of earth on this mining project, Gogebic Taconite is already hard at work in Wisconsin…working to assure that they have the “best” mining laws that money can buy – provided you shovel enough cash into the pockets of our politicians.