Blowing Up a Sandstorm

Blowing Up a Sandstorm

Email date: 10/21/13

In this update:
1. Proposed state power grab over sand mining may get impromptu public hearing
2. Study shows justices tend to side with attorneys who donate to their campaigns
3. John Doe lives

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Proposed state power grab over sand mining may get impromptu hearing
Industry-friendly legislation that would strip local communities of the ability to control their own fate when it comes to the mining of sand and other nonmetallic materials is moving quickly but quietly in the Capitol. The draft legislation could be introduced and assigned a bill number as soon as tomorrow. Word is there will be a public hearing on the bill on Thursday.

The explosion of sand mining in western Wisconsin has been accompanied by an explosion in campaign contributions to state lawmakers. In May the Democracy Campaign issued a report showing a 2,100% increase in donations over the past six years. Sand mining continues to intensify, as does the flow of political money. As indicated in the latest entry on our blog, those who stand to profit most from the sand mining boom doled out more than $100,000 to Wisconsin politicians in the first six months of 2013 after giving more than $750,000 from 2007 through 2012.

As concerns grow about air, water and noise pollution, traffic congestion, landscape alteration and harm to local property values, counties and other local units of government have already approved or are considering moratoriums on new sand mining operations. The legislation being advanced by the Senate mining committee chairman aims to strip away local control and block any community oversight or regulation of the operations. The bill concentrates the power to oversee and regulate sand mining in the hands of the state, which has not put in place any rules or environmental protections since the increasing use of a practice known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” by oil and gas companies created intense demand for the kind of sand found in abundance in western Wisconsin.

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Study shows justices tend to side with donating attorneys
A new in-depth report by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism shows a strong correlation between the campaign contributions made by attorneys and the decisions of Wisconsin Supreme Court justices on cases involving clients represented by those lawyers. Data supplied by the Democracy Campaign is cited in the report, and WDC’s director is quoted numerous times.

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John Doe lives
According to a report in today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a secret multi-county John Doe investigation by local law enforcement authorities is looking into campaign improprieties and other possible wrongdoing by state officials. It was previously thought that the John Doe probes in Wisconsin, which are similar to federal grand jury investigations, had come to an end.