Docks Unlimited

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.

CONTRIBUTIONS FROM SPECIAL INTERESTS*
THAT SUPPORT ASSEMBLY BILL 850 TO LEGISLATORS**
WHO SUPPORT AND OPPOSE THE PROPOSAL 1993 – June 2005

ASSEMBLY SUPPORTERS OF AB850

Legislator/Leadership Committee Party District Total
Ainsworth, John R A06 $10,100
Albers, Sheryl R A50 $21,300
Ballweg, Joan R A41 $600
Bies, Garey D R A01 $22,350
Davis, Brett H R A80 $12,020
Fitzgerald, Jeff R A39 $14,804
Freese, Stephen R A51 $25,008
Friske, Donald R A35 $15,547
Gard, John R A89 $94,577
Gielow, Curtis C R A23 $9,910
Gottlieb, Mark R A60 $9,775
Gunderson, Scott R A83 $29,401
Gundrum, Mark R A84 $22,798
Hahn, Eugene R A47 $38,462
Hines, JA R A42 $14,150
Honadel, Mark R A21 $16,023
Huebsch, Michael R A94 $52,305
Hundertmark, Jean R A40 $17,590
Jensen, Scott R R A98 $110,967
Jeskewitz, Suzanne R A24 $7,100
Kaufert, Dean R A55 $14,160
Kerkman, Samantha R A66 $10,517
Kestell, Steve R A27 $9,825
Kleefisch, Joel R A38 $14,654
Krawczyk, Judy R A88 $29,040
Kreibich, Robin R A93 $25,441
Lamb, Andy R A29 $15,224
Lasee, Frank R A02 $18,392
LeMahieu, Daniel R R A59 $2,546
Loeffelholz, Gabe R A49 $10,195
Lothian, Thomas A R A32 $4,125
McCormick, Terri R A56 $29,615
Meyer, Dan R A34 $16,692
Montgomery, Phil R A04 $21,523
Moulton, Terry R A68 $18,560
Mursau, Jeffrey L R A36 $10,596
Musser, Terry R A92 $13,965
Nass, Stephen L R A31 $11,510
Nerison, Lee A R A96 $13,251
Nischke, Ann M R A97 $12,375
Ott, Alvin R A03 $5,410
Owens, Carol R A53 $8,777
Petrowski, Jerry R A86 $37,934
Pettis, Mark R A28 $35,567
Pridemore, Don R A99 $200
Republican Assembly Campaign Committee R N/A $176,246
Rhoades, Kitty R A30 $26,899
Stone, Jeff R A82 $26,210
Strachota, Pat R A58 $2,200
Suder, Scott R A69 $23,967
Towns, Debi R A43 $26,199
Townsend, John R A52 $22,820
Underheim, Gregg R A54 $20,156
Van Roy, Karl R A90 $37,123
Vos, Robin R A63 $6,850
Vruwink, Amy Sue D A70 $4,260
Vukmir, Leah R A14 $6,400
Ward, David R A37 $10,017
Wieckert, Steve R A57 $35,364
Wood, Jeffrey S R A67 $17,557
Ziegelbauer, Bob D A25 $450
TOTALS $1,377,599

ASSEMBLY OPPONENTS OF AB850

Legislator/Leadership Committee Party District Total
Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee D N/A $96,246
Benedict, Chuck D A45 $939
Berceau, Terese D A76 $1,300
Black, Spencer D A77 $604
Boyle, Frank D A73 $2,465
Colon, Pedro D A08 $9,575
Cullen, David D A13 $5,719
Fields, Jason D A11 $1,100
Grigsby, Tamara D A18 $400
Gronemus, Barbara D A91 $4,950
Hebl, Gary D A46 $2,889
Hubler, Mary D A75 $3,040
Kessler, Frederick D A12 $100
Kreuser, James D A64 $28,957
Krusick, Peggy D A07 $1,400
Lehman, John D A62 $650
Molepske, Louis John Jr D A71 $2,800
Nelson, Thomas D A05 $1,250
Parisi, Joseph D A48 $1,000
Pocan, Mark D A78 $4,570
Pope-Roberts, Sondy D A79 $1,535
Richards, Jon D A19 $9,900
Schneider, Marlin D A72 $5,038
Seidel, Donna J D A85 $1,485
Sheridan, Michael D A44 $1,780
Sherman, Gary D A74 $5,455
Shilling, Jennifer D A95 $4,818
Sinicki, Christine D A20 $350
Staskunas, Tony D A15 $7,775
Steinbrink, John D A65 $8,220
Toles, Barbara D A17 $1,000
Travis, David D A81 $5,112
Turner, Robert D A61 $4,066
Van Akkeren, Terry D A26 $2,200
Wasserman, Sheldon D A22 $14,180
Young, Leon D A16 $2,925
Zepnick, Josh D A09 $3,475
TOTALS $249,268

SENATE

Legislator/Leadership Committee Party District Total
Breske, Roger D S12 $43,298
Brown, Ronald W R S31 $37,210
Carpenter, Tim D S03 $7,875
Coggs, G Spencer D S06 $2,975
Committee to Elect a Republican Senate R N/A $154,570
Cowles, Robert R S02 $10,040
Darling, Alberta R S08 $87,811
Decker, Russ D S29 $22,088
Ellis, Michael R S19 $29,475
Erpenbach, Jon D S27 $12,937
Fitzgerald, Scott R S13 $36,149
Grothman, Glenn R S20 $41,625
Hansen, Dave D S30 $12,483
Harsdorf, Sheila R S10 $126,439
Jauch, Robert D S25 $3,320
Kanavas, Theodore J R S33 $72,797
Kapanke, Dan R S32 $99,220
Kedzie, Neal R S11 $30,973
Lasee, Alan R S01 $15,629
Lassa, Julie D S24 $22,050
Lazich, Mary R S28 $57,430
Leibham, Joseph R S09 $87,858
Miller, Mark D S16 $7,000
Olsen, Luther R S14 $11,899
Plale, Jeffrey D S07 $31,229
Reynolds, Tom R S05 $29,851
Risser, Fred D S26 $6,475
Robson, Judith D S15 $7,840
Roessler, Carol R S18 $29,115
Schultz, Dale R S17 $53,288
State Senate Democratic Committee D N/A $77,445
Stepp, Cathy R S21 $104,256
Taylor, Lena C D S04 $5,750
Wirch, Robert D S22 $24,532
Zien, David R S23 $54,523
TOTALS $1,457,455

* Totals represent large individual and political action committee contributions from realtors, builders and the restaurant industry who have publicly supported the bill.

**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.