Realtor, builder and restaurant campaign contributions floating weak pier rules
Posted: January 30, 2006
Madison - Assembly lawmakers who support a legislative proposal that weakens dock rules sought by state environmental experts have received 5.5 times more in campaign contributions from powerful special interests that favor the plan than opponents, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows.
WDC found that the 58 Republicans, their leadership committee and two Democrats who support Assembly Bill 850 have received $1.38 million since 1993 from developers, realtors and restaurant industry supporters of the bill. The 36 Assembly Democrats who oppose the measure and their leadership committee have received $249,268 from those special interests (see tables below).
The bill needs Senate approval.
The bill has been criticized for threatening the state’s ability to regulate oversized piers that affect navigation, infringe on the rights of neighbors, harm wildlife habitat and populations and reduce access by anglers, boaters and other water enthusiasts. All this in order to satisfy the Wisconsin Realtors Association, Wisconsin Builders Association, Wisconsin Restaurant Association and wealthy lakefront property owners who want soft regulations that make it easier for them to develop and sell land.
One of AB850’s key sponsors is Assembly Speaker John Gard whose state campaign has accepted $94,577 since 1993 from realtors, builders and restaurant owners. In addition, Gard accepted $63,722 between January 1 and September 30, 2005 from those interests for his 8th District congressional race.
Gard introduced his bill after the DNR first proposed rules that were attacked as too strict in radio advertisements by the realtors. The agency agreed November 15 to ease them. It approved new rules December 7 that would grandfather in docks up to 200 square feet, which covers 99 percent of existing piers, and wave the permit fee for those owners. The pier needs of the vast majority of lakefront property owners do not adversely affect the environment and would not be affected under the revised DNR rules, the agency said.
However, the Assembly passed AB850 on December 15 because the realtors and builders want all existing piers exempt from regulation. AB850 also would exempt existing piers of up to 400 square feet, allow boat slips for all lakefront condominiums and let wealthy private and commercial waterfront landowners on Green Bay, Lake Michigan, Lake Winnebago, the Mississippi River and the Fox River build large piers even if they interfere with navigation, cause flooding on adjacent property or destroy wildlife and scenic habitat.
It has become common for special interests to make dire predictions about economic harm and job loss as they assail rules and regulators in order to get a so-called “fix” that benefits only them and hurts the general public. In this case groups representing the realtors, builders and restaurant industry are pulling the property rights card to whip up a public frenzy to divert attention from the breaks they want. AB850 was rushed to the aid of developers, realtors and restaurant owners much like other legislation that benefits wealthy campaign contributors.
“These groups do these folksy advertisements that make it look like what they want helps everyday people. The special treatment they want wouldn’t benefit the typical lakefront property owner, much less those who don’t live on the water. They’re doing this to get breaks at everybody else’s expense,” said WDC executive director Mike McCabe.
The Senate, which is controlled 19-14 by Republicans, is likely to consider the bill in the next few months. The special interests backing the bill have contributed $1.46 million to state senators. Republicans have accepted $1.17 million, or four times more than the $287,297 Democrats have accepted from these contributors.
ASSEMBLY SUPPORTERS OF AB850
|Bies, Garey D||R||A01||$22,350|
|Davis, Brett H||R||A80||$12,020|
|Gielow, Curtis C||R||A23||$9,910|
|Jensen, Scott R||R||A98||$110,967|
|LeMahieu, Daniel R||R||A59||$2,546|
|Lothian, Thomas A||R||A32||$4,125|
|Mursau, Jeffrey L||R||A36||$10,596|
|Nass, Stephen L||R||A31||$11,510|
|Nerison, Lee A||R||A96||$13,251|
|Nischke, Ann M||R||A97||$12,375|
|Republican Assembly Campaign Committee||R||N/A||$176,246|
|Van Roy, Karl||R||A90||$37,123|
|Vruwink, Amy Sue||D||A70||$4,260|
|Wood, Jeffrey S||R||A67||$17,557|
ASSEMBLY OPPONENTS OF AB850
|Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee||D||N/A||$96,246|
|Molepske, Louis John Jr||D||A71||$2,800|
|Seidel, Donna J||D||A85||$1,485|
|Van Akkeren, Terry||D||A26||$2,200|
|Brown, Ronald W||R||S31||$37,210|
|Coggs, G Spencer||D||S06||$2,975|
|Committee to Elect a Republican Senate||R||N/A||$154,570|
|Kanavas, Theodore J||R||S33||$72,797|
|State Senate Democratic Committee||D||N/A||$77,445|
|Taylor, Lena C||D||S04||$5,750|
**Table does not include Representatives Polly Williams or Mary Williams because they did not vote on the bill and no other public record of their position could be found. In addition, there is no listing for the 33rd Assembly District because the seat was vacant when the vote was taken on the bill.