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Money buys influence in Wisconsin

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Have you ever wondered about legislation enacted by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker?

As I did research for this letter, I found that most of the legislation passed from 2011 through 2013 was written with “help” from special interests.

Here are three examples:

1. Republican Rep. Joel Kleefisch of Oconomowoc recently introduced legislation written especially for a campaign donor, Michael Eisenga. Eisenga, a millionaire, along with his attorney directed Kleefisch’s office to design legislation that would dramatically reduce the amount of money wealthy people would pay for child support.

Eisenga contributed $3,500 to the representative’s and $7,000 to his wife, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch’s, campaigns.

2. Mining legislation to weaken environmental standards across the state, but especially in the Penokee Hills, was drafted by Gogebic Taconite, the Governor’s Office and Legislative Reference Bureau in January 2011 according to an open records search by former Democratic Rep. Kelda Roys with records released May 13, 2012. Sen. Scott Fitzgerald was heavily involved in the process as was Sen. Tom Tiffany, who introduced the “revised” bill that was signed into law by Walker.

G-Tac’s president, Bill Williams, is facing legal action in connection with arsenic contamination from the Cobre Las Cruces mine in Seville, Spain. Williams’ company has never operated an iron ore mine.

Williams complains the DNR wants too much information regarding the extreme impact the proposed mine would have on the people and the area.

Special interests that backed loosening mining regulations for the group have contributed $15.6 million to Republican legislators and the governor between 2010 to April 23, 2012.

3. The American Legislative Exchange Council, a pro-business group, listed 43 Wisconsin lawmakers, all of them Republicans except one.

In the 2011-2012 legislative session, 32 bills were modeled after ALEC legislation.

I volunteered at a “Personal Needs Center.” In 90 minutes, 30 people most of them with families came through, in near blizzard conditions, to choose essential items such as toilet paper.

As I watched a mute man aided by a friend, I kept wondering: What “voice” does this needy man have to influence legislation that would directly benefit him? Clearly, his “voice” and the “voices” of so many hurting people will never be heard unless we become the “voices” for them and speak up.

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