Grant Unveils Abuse of Power

9/4/2013 1:26:00 PM
Grant unveils abuse of power
The Rice Lake Chronotype

Buried within the 1,400 pages of the state budget bill and unbeknownst to all but a few legislators and their staffers, was a provision to hand out $500,000 in taxpayer dollars to a private foundation under the guise of a Department of Natural Resources grant.
The provision, so specifically written as to essentially guarantee its award to a group well-connected to then Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder, ostensibly had the laudable goal of promoting hunting and fishing in Wisconsin. But revelations in recent days all point to a plan to reward Suder cronies and use public dollars to perpetuate a conservative Republican agenda.
The subterfuge played out last week after DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp awarded the grant to United Sportsman of Wisconsin Foundation, the only applicant. Her legal counsel said the law was written in a way that required her to award the grant to the foundation.
The foundation was the only applicant because the grant was never advertised through usual channels and the language of the provision was written in a way that excluded most other conservation groups.
The grant provides $200,000 this year and $300,000 next. After that, the provision calls for the group to receive $450,000 every 2 years in perpetuity.
Since its inception in June 2011, the foundation essentially has been a lobbying group carrying water for Suder, Gov. Scott Walker and the National Rifle Assn. It took the unusual position for a conservation group of backing the legislation for the open-pit iron ore mine in the Penokee Hills. Some of the key players in the group also have been staffers for Americans for Prosperity-the Koch brothers’ funnel for money into conservative politics.
But regardless of which party or political agenda is involved, it’s just one more example of politicians abusing their power. Whether it’s pork barrel appropriations, earmarks or this kind of selective, back door legislation, it’s the kind of activity that makes voters cynical and is dragging down our democracy.

[The editorials that appear weekly in this space are the views of the newspaper as determined by The Chronotype’s editorial board. All editorials are written by one or more members of the board, which consists of Warren Dorrance, Sam Finazzo, Gene Prigge and Eileen Nimm.]

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