February 10, 2016

Mining advocates donate millions to key lawmakers

A new report shows special interests who support easing mining regulations in Wisconsin to make it easier to dig an iron ore mine far outspent opponents.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign says supporters of relaxing mining regulations have contributed nearly $16 million to the governor and Republicans in the legislature, while environmental groups that oppose the mine gave just $25,000 in a similar time period. “There are 30 different interest groups that have registered to lobby in support of mining deregulation.”

Mike McCabe with the watchdog group says folks lobbying for the proposed mine in Iron and Ashland Counties have donated 610 times as much money to lawmakers as mining opponents have from 2010 through June of last year, in hopes of making the permit process quicker and easier. “I think that goes a long way toward explaining why this was the very first bill introduced, why it got a very prompt hearing, and why the legislature seems poised to act on it very early in the legislative session. They’re making it the number one priority.”

McCabe says money talks — rather, shouts — in state politics right now. Governor Scott Walker’s campaign received over $11 million from mining supporters and lawmakers received just over $4 million, according to the report. It shows the construction industry gave the most money to mining supporters at the Capitol — over $4 million. Republican finance co-chair Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) received the most contributions among legislators — just over $467 thousand.

Senate and Assembly mining committees are scheduled to vote on mining bills Wednesday, February 6 at 10 am.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:56

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