There’s been a 2,100 percent increase in campaign donations for Wisconsin elections in the last six years from sand mining interests. That’s according to a new report from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. The group’s Mike McCabe says donors can get away with such dramatic increases because nobody’s watching.
“There’s no question that this industry is operating right now with very little supervision, very little oversight, very little community involvement, very little public input involved.” McCabe says, “They’re able to get permits, they’re able to operate — and operate as they please — with very few eyes watching them and they want to keep it that way.”
Legislation would create more local control in the permitting process; it would bring awareness to frac-sand mining and take public input. “And of course that legislation is being fought ferociously by these mining interests,” McCabe says, “so that’s what’s at stake here, as well. I think that goes a long way to explain why there’s been this sudden dramatic infusion of campaign dollars into Wisconsin elections.”
The frac sand mining and natural gas industries gave $758,000 since 2007 to political candidates. Contributions have grown to $414,000 in 2012 from $19,000 in 2007 when only a handful of frac-sand mines were operating in the Badger State, according to the report released last week.
The Department of Natural Resources struggles to keep up with the growth in frac-sand mines. McCabe notes the agency has said they need at least ten people to monitor the activity. “So, that’s gonna be one of the big issues, is whether there will be adequate oversight and regulation of this activity. Right now it’s basically the Wild West when it comes to frac-sand mining.”
Governor Scott Walker had proposed in his budget two additional inspectors. The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee approved that request last week.
McCabe says, “Both parties have become very addicted to this money game.” He says the governor received the most contributions at $520,000, but it’s really flowing to all the people who have the power to control the agenda.