PolitiFact can't see either the forest or the trees, just WMC's point of view | WisCommunity

PolitiFact can't see either the forest or the trees, just WMC's point of view

The Journal Sentinel's much-maligned PolitiFact has done it again.

Perhaps the prudent thing and best way to reduce blood pressure would be to ignore PolitiFact, which is an almost daily disappointment. But the newspaper promotes it, devotes so many resources to it, and displays it so prominently that it is bound to attract plenty of gullilble readers who really think it is some kind of reliable umpire or fact-checking operation.

It is anything but.

Sunday's version purports to check a claim made in a commercial by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), which is pushing for approval of a still secret bill to speed up condideration of a huge open pit iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin.

It is PolitiFact at its finest, looking so hard for the needle that it ignores the haystack. The result is a "Mostly True" rating for WMC claims about how many jobs and how much economic impact the mine would produce.

But it is in deciding which claims to check that PolitiFact skews the outcome:

The ad states that the mine will be open for 100 years, and will be a boon to the state’s economy. Let’s look at the broader impact of the mine, and how realistic it is that it would operate for so long and have such an impact. We’ll set aside for now the considerable environmental concerns that make this project highly controversial...

How convenient. We'll just set aside those concerns that the mine could destroy the scenic beauty of the area, pollute tribal lands, local streams and Lake Superior, and cause countless other environmental problems. Those, too, would last a century or more. But PolitiFact sets them aside "for now" -- and never returns to them. That despite the fact that the radio spot WMC is running also makes these claims:

You see, there are billions of tons of iron ore in Iron County Wisconsin that can be safely mined for generations – all while protecting our environment.

Minnesota and Michigan have done it. And, we can too.


That would be worthy of checking, one might think. What is the experience with this kind of mine in other states? Ever been to the Mesabi Range?  It isn't pretty. But not to worry, we're talking jobs here, not environment.

Back to Politifact:

Gogebic wants to speed up the permitting process and eliminate steps that can be used by opponents to create years of delays. They want to condense a five- to seven-year process to 300 days. The key to the project is the massive amount of iron ore believed to be there. Remember: We’re talking about the key component used to make the steel used in the cars and trucks of the future...

Good grief! No wonder we have to speed up the approval process. We could run out of cars and trucks if we stop to study the impact of this mine, which could tear up 80 square miles of northern Wisconsin.

One thing is clear: The mining company (and WMC) want to get the bill approved while the Republicans control both the legislative and executive branches of state government. If the GOP loses the state Senate in the recall elections, the bill could face big delays...

Yes, the Democrats might actually want to allow some time for public input and environmental impact studies. Perish the thought; what if we run out of cars in the meantime?

Meanwhile, PolitiFact simply accepts at face value a study paid for by the mining companies about how many jobs would be created and how great the economic impact would be. That's what passes for investigating? The research firm in question has a track record of incredible sloppiness, but no matter. Those "facts" don't get checked. PolitiFact rates WMC's claim Mostly True. We rate PolitiFact's "investigation" as Totally Inadequate and Unreliable.


June 12, 2011 - 2:07pm