By Matthew Rothschild on July 26, 2012

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and his cronies pushed for months to pass a mining bill that would have favored one out-of-state company: Gogebic Taconite.

Ultimately, the effort failed by the slimmest of margins.

But they haven’t given up.

For some insight into how crudely they keep pushing, take a gander at a letter from the WMC (Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce) to Kennan Wood, head of Wood Communications Group.

“We need to take our cues from the company on the substance of any legislation and the strategy to get it enacted,” said the letter, dated July 19. “At the end of the day, the only logical goal of mining reform legislation is to get the Gogebic Taconite Company to build a mine in Wisconsin. Pursuing legislation that does not work for them is a waste of time.”

The letter was written by James A. Buchen, senior vice president of WMC.

In it, Buchen wrote that WMC is hopeful that after November, it will be able to get the bill passed that it wants.

“A change of two members in the senate—which is very likely—would pave the way for passage.” It “would create a regulatory environment that is acceptable to at least one mining company. That scenario represents our best shot.”

By creating an “acceptable” regulatory environment, WMC means lessening protections for waters in northern Wisconsin that feed into Lake Superior and that the Bad River Chippewa rely on. (See Rebecca Kemble’s article at progressive.org.)

Buchen wrote that it was “premature, at best, to be discussing alternative mining legislation.”

And he opposed any further study of the issue. “We are also concerned that the proposed study comparing Wisconsin’s regulatory environment to other states could be a potential quagmire,” he wrote. “There will always be room for mining opponents to use the study to argue for more regulation, or different regulation. . . . This could further confuse legislators and opinion leaders and make it more difficult to pass a bill that is acceptable to the mining industry.”

It’s unclear what client Wood Communications was representing in its discussion with WMC.

Kennan Wood declined to return my phone calls for comment, and a staffer there could not answer my question about the client.

Wood Communications has many corporate clients, including Miller Brewing, Midwest Express, Oscar Mayer, and the American Transmission Company. “Whether it's an environmental mishap, a labor strike, or citizen opposition to your business, effective crisis/issue management can help save lives, reputations, and money,” it says on its website. It adds: “You need effective strategies for positioning your issues and engaging in the process that drives policy making and permitting.”

I also tried to get comment from Buchen at WMC, but he didn’t return my calls, either.

I verified the authenticity of the letter at WMC’s headquarters.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Morning Carnage in Colorado."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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