Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Campaign Cash

New GOP Pro-Mining Group Ran Attack Ads

Natural Resources Development Association did ads attacking mining opponents.

By - Nov 10th, 2017 01:02 pm
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Mining. Photo from the WDC.

Mining. Photo from the WDC.

A new group with Republican ties was formed in August by unknown special interest backers to push for a repeal of the state’s sulfide mining moratorium, which was just passed by the legislature and awaits the signature of Gov. Scott Walker.

The Natural Resource Development Association has a website and a Madison address. The association’s executive director and lobbyist is Nathan Conrad, a former Republican Party of Wisconsin communications director.

Part of the group’s credo reads: “By engaging community leaders, laborers, manufacturers, and job creators in the legislative and decision-making process, the association will help create an open atmosphere for resources development that is both environmentally sound and economically beneficial for Wisconsin.”

Some of that engagement was attack ads only weeks after the group was formed. The association sponsored digital ads attacking two opponents of the Republican plan to scrap the mining moratorium. One ad of the ads targeted Al Gedicks, executive secretary of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council. The other ad said activist Laura Gauger was an out-of-state pharmacist who wanted to deprive northern Wisconsin of much-needed jobs.

The group also sponsored digital ads commending GOP members on the Senate Committee for Sporting Heritage, Mining and Forestry for recommending passage of the measure, Senate Bill 395. During a hearing on the bill, the committee’s chair and the bill’s author, Sen. Tom Tiffany, of Hazelhurst, took a cue from the association’s attack ads and questioned Gedicks about a 47-year-old conviction when he testified against the mining bill.

The current moratorium requires mining companies to prove up front they have run mines before that do not pollute. This is called a “prove-it-first” clause. The bill would ditch that provision.

About two dozen special interest groups have weighed in on SB395. The measure had backing from the association and seven other organizations, including Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business group, and Americans for Prosperity, a dark money electioneering group created by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. Both groups have spent more than $24 million since 2010 to back Republican and conservative candidates for legislative and statewide offices.

Opponents of the legislation included about a dozen mostly environmental groups and Indian tribes that argued that repealing the provisions of moratorium would pollute the state’s water supply and threaten the agriculture and tourism industries.

The opponents of the bill also pointed to about a dozen provisions that roll back other environmental protection laws. These provisions include:

  • Weakening laws that protect wetlands and groundwater;
  • Cutting the time state regulators have to issue permits;
  • Reducing legal challenges of mining permits and a judge’s authority to halt mining activities;
  • Repealing a state law that requires the state to deny a mine’s request for a high-capacity well that would reduce drinking water available from other wells in the area or end up reducing stream and lake levels or causing them to dry up.

More about the Senate Bill 395

4 thoughts on “Campaign Cash: New GOP Pro-Mining Group Ran Attack Ads”

  1. JPKMKE says:

    I’m pro-mining because every time I get in my car or use my computer I rely on it. What the headline could have said, if it were not neatly compartmentalizing complex issues into Dems vs. Repubs, is that the new organization is questioning the source of backing and motivation of people who are concerned about Sulfide rock disposal…just as this article questioned those who are responsible for sulfide rock disposal.

  2. pplr says:

    I’m not anti-mining either. But I am cautious about weakening the rules about it-especially under this governor (who appointed one of the worst DNR secretaries in modern times).

    This governor is not that trustworthy when it comes to environmental issues and mines, especially ones that will not last as long as the damage they make, should be carefully looked at.

    BTW I think the head of the company that ultimately would have run the earlier proposed iron mine up north was wanted in Spain for violations of the law for a mine his company ran there. Both a mark against him and Walker for the kind of people he would bring to Wisconsin.

    The impact of a mine in Wisconsin should not be a partisan issue if all were concerned about the future of this state.

    Acknowledging that we a have a governor who isn’t that trustworthy on this issue shouldn’t be partisan either.

    JPK, I haven’t discussed much with you recently but I hope you aren’t using complaints partisanship in an attempt to mislead or cover that up issues with Walker.

  3. JPKMKE says:

    pplr: I find Walker to be a “slight of hand” style politician who has made a career out of saying one thing and doing another. This doesn’t make him better or worse than others on both sides of the aisle, including those who choose to be more transparent and make decisions favoring special interests over the public anyway. More to the point, a regulation that requires “experience” is the target here. It is legislatively lazy and obstructionist. It’s a good way to stifle innovation. If the issue of public concern in this case is sulfide rock disposal, we need solutions from the private sector and oversight from the state government. The current regulation doesn’t appear to provide that in my opinion. I don’t know anything about mining, this is just basic public administration logic.

  4. Big Al says:

    Under this new law, who pays if/when something goes wrong? If the ‘safe’ sulfide rock mining process fails, will the mining company be held responsible? If the local wells go dry, will the mining company pay for new water sources? If a frac sand mine is polluting the air, will the mining company correct the problem immediately?

    This law is all about reducing oversight and throwing out accountability. Businesses who are looking to profit from activities that can permanently damage the air, water, and land need more oversight and accountability, not less. The ‘prove-it-first’ clause accomplishes that even when the DNR refuses to do its job.

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