In yet another example of Gov. Scott Walker’s administration seeking to put the proverbial foxes in the henhouse, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting mining lobbyist Bob Seitz was considered for a top position at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) before the Walker administration backed off the appointment due to federal conflict of interest laws.

Gov. Scott Walker’s administration considered giving a top natural resources position this year to a lobbyist for a company proposing a massive iron mine, but backed off because of a federal law barring conflicts of interest.

Records show that Walker’s staff was considering Gogebic Taconite lobbyist and spokesman Bob Seitz for the post of deputy secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. He was being considered for the post just before Gogebic announced it was closing its office in northern Wisconsin and stepping away from a proposed $1.5 billion iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties.

Seitz ended up getting a different appointment from Walker, with the Public Service Commission.

The DNR is the state’s chief environmental enforcement agency and was overseeing early stages of work on Gogebic’s proposal for the mine, which would have operated for decades over a 4-mile-long area.

The consideration of Seitz came as Walker was ramping up his likely run for the presidency.

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5 Responses to Walker administration sought to appoint mining lobbyist to top position in DNR

  1. CJMcD says:

    Seitz was still a registered lobbyist for several days after he was appointed to the PSC. It was only after a ruckus was made and inquiries to legislators and the GAB about the impropriety of a registered lobbyist being an appointee to the Public Service Commission that he finally withdrew all of his lobbying registrations.

  2. lufthase says:

    Interesting that Seitz not getting the DNR appointment is what’s getting traction as a news story. The PSC position that he ultimately did land is just as much of a conflict of interest, but the federal law that prevented him from going to DNR only narrowly applies to companies seeking water permits. Fox is still guarding a henhouse, just not the particular henhouse that Walker was initially thinking of.

    Seitz was up until a few weeks ago Executive Director of WI Utility Investors, Inc., a stockholder group whose mission is “protecting” utility company profits and stockholder dividends… and now he’s the top staffer at the agency that regulates WI utilities.

    And not for nothing, GTAC’s parent company is mostly in the business of mining coal.

  3. CJMcD says:

    As lufthase said, being a lobbyist for and Exec. Director of Wisconsin Utility Investors should also apply to direct conflict of interest. There needs to be more light shined on this story.

  4. CJMcD says:

    As lufthase said, being a lobbyist for and Exec. Director of Wisconsin Utility Investors should also apply to direct conflict of interest. There needs to be more light shined on this story.

  5. lufthase says:

    Another weird thing about Mr. Seitz… if you go to the State of WI financial relationships disclosure page, it says that Seitz is required to file a financial disclosure and did so at the end of Feb:

    But, if you click through all the financial relationships associated with PSC employees, his name doesn’t come up once. (For some reason you can’t simply look up an individual’s financial disclosure, but you can back into it somewhat tediously by clicking on all the relationships associated with their agency.)

    So, either this well-connected (former) lobbyist has just been stuffing all his cash into a mattress, or we’re missing some information here. You’d kinda think that an executive director of a shareholder group would have some kind of investment in something, right?

    At any rate, this revolving-door and regulatory-capture stuff is probably pretty off-putting to a wide swath of Wisconsinites, beyond just us over here on the left. Maybe this is something the DPW can run on? Campaign on a state-level conflict of interest bill prohibiting lobbyists and executives from working for agencies that regulated them for, say, 10 years? And prohibit former legislators and political appointees in the exec branch from lobbying for 10 yrs? It would be awfully tough for the GOP to oppose this with any conviction, and it could win over some folks in the “moderate” and “I don’t bother voting” camps.

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