Meet the man with the money 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 Wisconsin 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.

Mike McCabe is the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a nonpartisan election campaign watchdog agency.

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