Friday, June 24, 2005

Pulp Protection

Wisconsin's paper industry is buying up some good insider influence in the Legislature and providing a safety net for four former legislative leaders turned contract lobbyists.

Former Democratic State Senator Brian Burke has been hired by Arjo Wiggins Appleton Ltd. Burke, a former Joint Finance Committee co-chair, decided not to seek reelection in 2002 because he faces felony charges for hawking campaign contributions on state time and on state property. The company also hired former Republican Senate Majority Leader Mary Panzer who lost her job in a September 2004 primary contest to now Republican Senator Glenn Grothman.

Georgia-Pacific has hired former Republican Senator Bob Welch who left his state Senate seat in a failed bid last September for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate. The company also hired former Republican Assembly Majority Leader Steve Foti who decided not to run for reelection because he faces trial for putting a campaign fundraiser on the state payroll.

In the last few years the industry has scored millions of dollars in tax breaks and exemptions for its production and waste disposal costs. Now they're pushing a bill, which was approved 49-44 Thursday in the Assembly, to accelerate insurance settlements they claim they need to clean up PCB pollution they caused in the Fox River. The four ex-legislators accepted $6,100 in campaign contributions from the industry while they were in office.

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