Walker’s Cronies Still Crudely Push Bill for One Mining Co.

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and his cronies pushed for months to pass a mining bill that would have favored one out-of-state company: Gogebic Taconite.

Ultimately, the effort failed by the slimmest of margins.

But they haven’t given up.

For some insight into how crudely they keep pushing, take a gander at a letter from the WMC (Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce) to Kennan Wood, head of Wood Communications Group.

“We need to take our cues from the company on the substance of any legislation and the strategy to get it enacted,” said the letter, dated July 19. “At the end of the day, the only logical goal of mining reform legislation is to get the Gogebic Taconite Company to build a mine in Wisconsin. Pursuing legislation that does not work for them is a waste of time.”

The letter was written by James A. Buchen, senior vice president of WMC.

In it, Buchen wrote that WMC is hopeful that after November, it will be able to get the bill passed that it wants.

“A change of two members in the senate—which is very likely—would pave the way for passage.” It “would create a regulatory environment that is acceptable to at least one mining company. That scenario represents our best shot.”

By creating an “acceptable” regulatory environment, WMC means lessening protections for waters in northern Wisconsin that feed into Lake Superior and that the Bad River Chippewa rely on. (See Rebecca Kemble’s article at progressive.org.)

Buchen wrote that it was “premature, at best, to be discussing alternative mining legislation.”

And he opposed any further study of the issue. “We are also concerned that the proposed study comparing Wisconsin’s regulatory environment to other states could be a potential quagmire,” he wrote. “There will always be room for mining opponents to use the study to argue for more regulation, or different regulation. . . . This could further confuse legislators and opinion leaders and make it more difficult to pass a bill that is acceptable to the mining industry.”

It’s unclear what client Wood Communications was representing in its discussion with WMC.

Kennan Wood declined to return my phone calls for comment, and a staffer there could not answer my question about the client.

Wood Communications has many corporate clients, including Miller Brewing, Midwest Express, Oscar Mayer, and the American Transmission Company. “Whether it's an environmental mishap, a labor strike, or citizen opposition to your business, effective crisis/issue management can help save lives, reputations, and money,” it says on its website. It adds: “You need effective strategies for positioning your issues and engaging in the process that drives policy making and permitting.”

I also tried to get comment from Buchen at WMC, but he didn’t return my calls, either.

I verified the authenticity of the letter at WMC’s headquarters.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Morning Carnage in Colorado."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter