Thursday, March 13, 2008

Is This Good Press? WMC's "No" Voice In The Sports Section

Give the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce credit:

They must ascribe to that old saw that no publicity is bad publicity, as it is publicity galore that they are getting these days.

But it's not all about their attack ads in the State Supreme Court race, or their opposition to health care reform, Clean Air (and note their ally in that opposition, here) Great Lakes water protection or tax fairness, among others.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Outdoors columnist notes Wednesday that the WMC opposed a bill, now blocked through last-minute maneuvering in the State Assembly until 2009, that would have returned the governance of the Department of Natural Resources to greater citizen control and its historic roots.

All joking aside: is getting your group's name into the Journal Sentinel sports section, the last place where most political folks ever want to find themselves, really the best bang for the WMC's members' bucks?

Just wondering...anyway...there is an excellent history in this Journal Sentinel story of how the DNR position came to be so politicized in 1995.

Following effective grassroots organizing, the State Senate approved returning the appointment of the Secretary to the Board, and 75% of the State Assembly was poised to adopt it, too.

Those numbers are from the bill's leading champion, former DNR Secretary George Meyer.

He is now the executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, one of a coalition of conservation and environmental organizations backing the bill.

Their goal is to make DNR management and leadership more transparent and publicly-spirited, and to restore the non-partisan credibility of the position that was lost when it became a cabinet position.

But the WMC prefers the more closed system of DNR Secretary selection - - regardless of who is Governor - - because it heightens their power, as big-inside players in Madison, to influence the appointment and thus DNR policy.

Their statement of opposition is here.

Many DNR responsibilities have a direct bearing on business in Wisconsin.

That's a given, as is WMC's interest in how the position is filled.

But changing the DNR Secretary's method of appointment wasn't necessarily going to be bad for business.

It just meant that the WMC might have to work harder to lobby an entire board to get what it wanted from the agency, with the potential value of WMC members' or related contributions to gubernatorial candidates or incumbents thus diminished.

The bill cannot come again this year because the GOP-led Assembly adjourned without taking it up as this session ended.

The Assembly's GOP leadership bottled up the bill, but found the time to praise Brett Favre and grandstand by passing a bill going nowhere to make English the state's official language.

So the Assembly's leaders shouldn't be surprised to feel the wrath of the state's anglers and hunters at the ballot box come November.

These citizen organizations have been working openly and in non/bi-partisan fashion for years on the measure, and were given no good reason for its demise.

Because there wasn't one to give.

(Note: an earlier and unedited version of this posting was inadvertantly posted, and has been deleted. Sorry for any trouble caused.)

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