Desperation: Ad Claims Scott Walker Would Taint Your Kids' Water

The Wisconsin gubernatorial race is receiving huge amounts of cash on both sides. In addition to the direct spending by the campaigns themselves, various outside advocacy groups have pumped significant money into the race. Mary Burke has received support from expected groups such as the SEIU, AFSCME, the AFL-CIO umbrella organization, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), EMILY’s List, and other left-of-center operations.

But she has also received support in the form of significant spending by the Madison, Wisconsin-based Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, which has spent $1.3M in this election cycle. Some of it went towards running ads such as this one:

To understand what this ad is about, it is necessary to review Wisconsin's economic situation and a little recent history. Generally speaking, the western half of Wisconsin is poorer than the eastern half, and the poorest area of all is the northwestern quadrant. Sparsely populated, there is little industry there. The economy relies primarily upon tourism, especially that associated with fishing, hunting, and farming. One of the few industrial operations is the mining of extremely fine glacial sand, which is plentiful in the region -- and is also a key product used in the fracking operations which have made North Dakota an economic powerhouse.

The environmentalist movement is sharply opposed to fracking and therefore they are opposed to the mining of the glacial sand. The sand pits are generally on private land though, so they have been unable to do much to halt it.

One of Scott Walker’s more substantial attempts to boost job creation in Wisconsin involves the significant deposits of high-grade iron ore in northwestern Wisconsin, which the Gogebic Taconite mining concern mentioned in the ad proposed exploiting. The mine would involve thousands of construction jobs for creating the infrastructure for the operation and digging the mine shafts themselves, as well as hundreds of more permanent jobs for equipment operators and miners once the operation is running. The project also would have a major impact on the economy of southeastern Wisconsin, as two major manufacturers of mining equipment -- Joy Global and Caterpillar -- have operations there.

From the start, the project was met with dogged Democratic opposition, both from the environmentalist lobby and from Democrats eager to reject any proposal put forward by the Republican administration. Put bluntly, it is in their best interest for Scott Walker to fail and for thousands of Wisconsin families to remain dependent to some degree on government aid.

This position has put the Democrats into direct conflict with what has until now been a core constituency: private labor unions. Most of the jobs created will involve members of construction, heavy equipment operators, and manufacturing unions across the state; these unions have been staunch advocates of the mining project.

After much posturing, the Republican legislature was able to alter Wisconsin’s extremely restrictive environmental laws, which allowed for endless objections to be filed by any interested party. These objections had been used to delay the permit process and thus severely hamper the operation.

And this, the halting of baseless, tactical objections, is the supposed “relaxation of environmental protections” mentioned in the Journal Sentinel headline which appears in the ad.