Saturday, August 23, 2014

Hits And Misses In NY Times Walker/$$ Story

The New York Times has a piece on its website about the blockbuster disclosures in court papers released by a federal appeals court on Friday about Scott Walker's fund-raising and message coordination ties with ostensibly independent third-party groups supporting his 2012 recall election campaign.

Here's one hit and two misses in that story:

Hit: The Times does what only it can do: frame the biggest picture possible for opinion-makers and a national audience: 
More broadly, the case is a reminder of how unsettled the 2016 Republican presidential field is at the moment, in part because three potential top-tier candidates face legal troubles. In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie is under investigation by federal prosecutors about whether he played a role in his aides’ closing of lanes of the George Washington Bridge, as part of an act of political punishment of an enemy. Last week, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas was indicted on charges of abuse of power for moving to cut funding from an aggressive Democratic prosecutor.
Miss I: Though the Times cites documents showing former Walker County staff aide Kelly Rindfleisch instructing Walker on the preferred route that would keep donations secret:
In an email to Mr. Walker in June 2011, Kelly M. Rindfleisch, who was his deputy chief of staff when he was Milwaukee County executive, offered a list of talking points the governor should use on a fund-raising trip in talking about the advantages of contributing to the Club for Growth. “Stress that donations to WiCFG are not disclosed and can accept corporate donations without limits,” the email said, using the acronym for the Club for Growth. “Let them know that you can accept corporate contributions and it is not reported.”
But the Times does not mention that Rindfleisch was subsequently convicted of a felony for conducting illegal campaign activities for yet another statewide candidate while on Walker's County public payroll. And that a secret Internet system had been installed in Walker's public County office suite by his operatives so his staff could privately communicate with his gubernatorial campaign people and others on public time.

Her conviction is on appeal.

Miss II: The Times story does not mention the disclosure in Friday's document dump of a previously-secret $700,000 donation routed for Walker's campaign benefit from Gogebic, a mining company which won the passage of a controversial bill easing long-standing Wisconsin environmental regulations and established mining review procedures - - a bill strongly supported by Walker which the company helped write, and for which it lobbied.

This is a major development (Among several posts at my blog about it, here and here).

And the mining connection was reported by The Journal Sentinel in its lead story today:  

"Because Wisconsin Club for Growth's fundraising and expenditures were being coordinated with Scott Walker's agents at the time of Gogebic's donation, there is certainly an appearance of corruption in light of the resulting legislation from which it benefited," investigator Dean Nickel said in documents unsealed Friday. 
The $1.5 billion mine would plunge as deep as 1,000 feet into hillsides in Ashland and Iron counties. Officials with the company have outlined plans for two pits covering about 4 miles... 
Gogebic is a subsidiary of privately held Cline Resource and Development, which is headed by Cline, who lives in South Florida. The company owns coal mines in Appalachia and Southern Illinois. 
Cline contributed $8,000 to Walker in 2010, campaign finance records show.
Gogebic first announced its plans in November 2010. By mid 2011, the company said that it wouldn't move forward until Wisconsin changed iron mine laws to give more certainty to the regulatory process. 
The company had an early hand in writing a mining bill and continued to play a key role throughout the legislative process. The bill, one of GOP's signature pieces of legislation since Walker's election, was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Walker in early 2013.
I hope the Times gets around to featuring this donation, as it carried significant coverage of the bill, it's "astonishing latitude" and the mine just five months ago to which it could easily refer readers: 
The $1.5 billion mine would initially be close to four miles long, up to a half-mile wide and nearly 1,000 feet deep, but it could be extended as long as 21 miles. In its footprint lie the headwaters of the Bad River, which flows into Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world and by far the cleanest of the Great Lakes. Six miles downstream from the site is the reservation of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, whose livelihood is threatened by the mine.
To facilitate the construction of the mine and the company’s promise of 700 long-term jobs, Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation last year granting GTac astonishing latitude. The new law allows the company to fill in pristine streams and ponds with mine waste. It eliminates a public hearing that had been mandated before the issuing of a permit, which required the company to testify, under oath, that the project had complied with all environmental standards. 
It allows GTac to pay taxes solely on profit, not on the amount of ore removed, raising the possibility that the communities affected by the mine’s impact on the area’s roads and schools would receive only token compensation. The legislation has generated fierce opposition since it was first introduced in 2011.  The following year, the bill was actually defeated in the State Senate, 17 to 16, owing to the defection of one Republican, Dale Schultz. After the vote, the Republican majority leader, Scott Fitzgerald, told me that “the corporation and their attorneys drafted a bill that may have been acceptable in other states,” with the implication being that the company had perhaps gone too far for Wisconsin.


nonquixote said...

Peace and Resolve James. Thanks for staying with this. Signed, Vietnam war protester and 346 in the military draft out of HS in 1970.

When will we ever learn?

Anonymous said...

The article also doesn't mention the fact that Kelly Rindfleisch was given immunity from prosecution in the caucus scandal back in 2002. And that she even tried to apply said immunity to her prosecution in John Doe 1. (Hard to keep it straight, there have been so many instances of wrong-doing on her part!)

James Rowen said...

You are welcome.