A recent Wisconsin State Journal story was about the Department of Natural Resources’ so-called enforcement actions involving Herr Environmental, a southeastern Wisconsin sanitary waste business. The Herr businesses have a record of noncompliance with environmental regulations and a history of political contributions and connections.
We have an open-and-shut case of the company spreading three times the allowable human wastes on fields near recreational areas, which clearly threatens area ground water and human health. In addition they provided 60 “inaccurate” records in three sets of documents that each time made it look like they were closer to compliance. Herr’s enterprises were fined in 2008 $240,000 for environmental mismanagement.
So how did the Walker administration work this out? In meetings with political appointments Scott Gunderson, Cathy Stepp, Herr company executives, and state Rep. Joel Kleefisch (remember that name when you vote in the June 5 recall), it was decided to not have the Department of Justice prosecute the case. Rather, they reached an agreement to issue a few citations with a $4,300 fine with no company paid testing of possible affected wells. DNR staffers had recommended a $20,000 to $50,000 fine. Stepp is reported to have stated there shouldn’t be citations or forfeitures. Did I mention that Gunderson and Kleefisch had received campaign contributions from the Herr family? What wasn’t reported was how much Herr gave Walker.
This follows on the heels of the Gogebic mine fiasco. In that one, mining interests spent well over $100,000 on campaign contributions in Madison. The so-called mining bills were hashed out in secret with only mining interests and a few politicians at the table. Left out of the discussion were the tribal leaders, environmental interests and the public. Hearings on the issue were held at very short notice hundreds of miles away from interested parties. In other words, the skids were very greased by a great deal of money. When the “campaign” ground to a halt in the state Senate, thanks to Sen. Dale Schultz and others, Walker refused to compromise and Gogebic “took their ball” and went home.
These two samples clearly point out how the corruption that today’s climate of big money dominance of Madison is bad for all citizens of Wisconsin. Public health? Too bad. Possible needed jobs? Too bad. Walker’s “my way or the highway” philosophy is clearly bad for Wisconsin. When corporations and wealthy individuals flood Madison with money they clearly want something in return, and Scott Walker is far too eager to pay them back. Scott Walker and his extreme Republicans are a far cry from fellow Republicans like Dale Schultz, Lee Dreyfus and Warren Knowles, whose actions are dictated by the people and not the special interests.
In closing, remember that the vast majority of Walker’s $20 million campaign contributions have come from out-of-state people who may have lots of money — and clearly want something in return — but they lack something that every one of us has: the right to vote in Wisconsin. No matter how much money these guys give Walker, they can’t vote for him.
Charles T. Steudel