MADISON, Wis. — State Sen. Mike Ellis, oft quoted decrying the influence of big money campaign contributions on the legislative process, appears to have lost his voice amid revelations that an out-of-state mining company was heavily involved in the drafting of the open pit mining bill on the legislative fast track. Sen. Ellis currently serves as Senate President and sits on the Senate Committee on Organization that sets the schedule for debate and votes on bills.
One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross commented, “This is a clear case of big business buying access to the legislative process that was denied the general public. In the last two years, Republican politicians have sucked up over $15.5 million from special interests pushing the open pit mining bill, and in return they let an out-of-state mining company not only got to see the bill before it was made available to the public, but make changes to it to benefit themselves.”
Documents obtained and released by One Wisconsin Now reveal that Gogebic Taconite, or GTAC, the mining company seeking to develop a massive open pit mine in Northern Wisconsin was given a preliminary draft, not made available publicly, of legislation to weaken state environmental protections and limit public input in the mine approval process to help their project. Approximately three weeks before the bill was unveiled the company requested, and was allowed to make, dozens of changes to the legislation to further benefit their interests.
Media reports have also revealed that between 2010 and 2012, the mining company and other special interests lobbying on behalf of the open pit mining bill have stuffed the campaign coffers of Gov. Walker and Republican state legislators with over $15.5 million in contributions.
“Sen. Ellis has the power to put the brakes on this egregious abuse of the legislative process. This is no time to stand idly by or pose for holy pictures at press conferences, this is the time for him to act to do what’s right for the people of Wisconsin and stop this sell off of public policy to special interests.”