Friday, January 13, 2012

The Man Behind The Mine

Wisconsin's legislature will soon decide whether to reopen part of the northwoods to iron ore mining. Much has been written and said about the proposed new mine in the Penokee-Gogebic Range, but not much attention has been paid to the man behind the project and the sprawling global conglomerate he is connected to.

The Democracy Campaign first started noticing large campaign contributions from mining interests to Wisconsin politicians just over a year ago, long before the mining bill was introduced. All of the money came from out of state. Roughly a quarter of the donations came from West Virginia mining magnate Chris Cline. The rest came from associates of Cline's. Some of those associates are at Cline Resource and Development. Others are with a company called Foresight, which is majority-owned and led by Cline. Still others are with a law firm Cline does business with. The remainder are other mining executives who've done business with Cline.

Environmentalists claim the mining bill being pushed in Wisconsin was written by the mining industry and would gut existing safeguards. The legislation certainly is Chris Cline's dream. And its approach to permit streamlining and environmental deregulation does bear a striking resemblance to the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council's model legislation known as the "Performance Based Permitting Act" and "Groundwater Protection Act."

Cline's Foresight is part of the global asset management firm Carlyle Group, a highly controversial and politically well connected corporate behemoth with tentacles that reach across the defense, aerospace, automotive, energy, health care, real estate, technology, telecommunications and transportation industries. Carlyle Group first earned a mention on the Democracy Campaign's website in a 2005 report we issued about shady Illinois donors who were funneling money to three candidates for governor in Wisconsin.

The Economist describes Carlyle Group as "deeply embedded in the iron triangle where industry, government and the military converge" and says it "arguably takes to a new level the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower feared might 'endanger our liberties or democratic process.'"

Carlyle Group also is into mining, through Chris Cline's Foresight. Which is itself a danger to our liberties and democratic process here in Wisconsin.


Linda Wyeth said...

Great investigative work, Mike! At the hearing in Hurley the other day, I recognized Chris Cline's name and make a note to myself to refresh my memory about his ties to George W. Bush and his clan -- though I couldn't immediately bring the Carlyle Group to the front of my mind. Keep up the great work of keeping us informed.

Jim Limbach said...

This is one of the ''premier'' issues facing all of Wisconsin and especially the Bad River Band of the Ojibwe People. Will we allow our natural resources be sold to out of state 1%ers with a reputation as horrid polluters who care nothing for the health and welfare of local residents? We Will NOT! Thank you for your help in our struggle to protect the water and people of Wisconsin.

Anonymous said...

After reading much of the ALEC-based clean water legislation proposal, it appears to me that the worst part of it is that it centralizes standards at the federal level. It seems to me that industry would prefer to set unhealthy pollution standards at the federal level with all states adhering to them than to implement ineffective standards at the state level in every state.

Joyce Blumenshine said...

You need to stop this company from weakening your clean water laws now. From my experience fighting an underground longwall coal mine that is one of Chris Cline's in Illinois, they are all about taking as much as they can and making money. The mine is not even in full production and they have violated their water permits. They built a high hazard dam coal slurry waste impoundment base in the city limits of a small town without a permit from the agency that approves high hazard dams, and then basically forced the agency to give an approval. Their engineers are from West Virginia and they have hired numerous Massey Mine managers for staff here. Do not let them weaken your environental laws. From what we are fighting in Illinois, this company is all about money and the environment is only in their way. No number of jobs is worth the environmental destruction and pollution that will be left by Cline and this mine.
Joyce Blumenshine, member CALM / Citizens Against Longwall Mining

Anonymous said...

The people who live in the area where this Iron is located, what the mine. The nut jobs who are hypocrital environmentalists, are against anything that utilizes our natural resourses.
Go live in the woods, without steel, and see how that works out for you.

-- aj van beest said...

Hey, you brave anonymous troll, I live in the area where this mine is located. I've talked with a lot of people who have all kinds of ideas about the mine. Unlike your illogical, name-calling, shoot-from-the-hip approach, most of the folks I've talked to up here have pretty well-reasoned, deeply-thought-out approaches to this issue. I think we all agree that having more jobs and more money in our local economy would be pretty nice. I don't think we all agree on just how important that money is. Is it important enough to sacrifice our drinking water for? What about our food chain? I don't know about you, but ever since the new dollar bills came out, they just don't taste as good. What about our health? Is the mine going to pay for the upswing in healthcare costs that will assuredly follow in the project's wake? Now, the folks who work at GTAC, along with the folks who really want the mine to come here, will probably say, "Balderdash, rubbish, and lies! We have excellent engineering and our plans are perfect, and we have a commitment to the environment." But if you look at these mine companies' track records in other projects, you can see that the mines are extremely dangerous places to work that destroy their immediate environment and contaminate the region, and which tend not to bring as much economic benefit to the area as the PR folks say. Don't believe me? When was the last time you took the family for a week-long vacation in scenic Mesabi, MN?

As for your "living without steel" parting shot, I can only assume that you haven't yet found the "financial news" section of the Interwebz. If you had, you'd see that there is such a glut of scrap iron and steel on the market, prices are near a record low. So why not recycle that material and remanufacture it and resell it? That'd create jobs too, dontcha know, and without all the environmental rigamarole.

While the environmental hazards are generally at the forefront of my mind when I think of this mine proposal -- after all, my house's well is in the aquifer the mine is going to rip up -- I think the bigger issue, the one that really makes me sad and frustrated, is how clearly this process is being ram-rodded through government. There's no meaningful discussion. There's no chance to ammend -- to make better -- the proposal. It's just a bunch of smug republicans who've all benefited from campaign contributions from the mining company in question jamming this project down our throats.

I don't care if you're liberal, conservative, independent, or purple: When the government doesn't listen and respond to the people, it's time to change it.

Anonymous said...

The experts have been pointing out that the proposed mine simply would not make money and therefore would never be built. The ore is low-grade and very deep. It has become increasingly obvious that this whole scheme has nothing to do with a mine and everything to do with reigniting the environment vs. jobs division in the state.