Pay to Plale: Special interests line up | WisCommunity

Pay to Plale: Special interests line up

State Sen. Jeff Plale, a South Milwaukee Dixiecrat, has a serious challenge in the Democratic primary for the first time since he won the seat in a special election in 2003.  And his friends are digging deep to contribute to his campaign and help him stay in office.

Those friends are not the working folks of Cudahy, South Milwaukee, or Bay View, however.  They are, by and large, the special interests that he has served so well in the legislature.

Blogging Blue noted that a huge chunk of the $35,452 Plale reported raising in the last six months came from people connected to cable television and energy utilities, both of which he has served well at the expense of his constituents. But Zach Wisnieski's tally omitted some of the special interest money that came in smaller donations through conduits.

If you add in the conduit money, $8,100 of the $35,500 -- 23 per cent -- of the money Plale raised came from people connected to electric utilities.

Consider that the first installment of a thank you to Plale for killing the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which the utilities opposed, in the final days of the legislative session.

Plale was a co-author of the bill, produced by a task force, but in the end pulled the plug and wouldn't even schedule the bill for a vote in his committee, although he had already helped to weaken it considerably.

That's one of the reasons many environmentalists are among those working to replace Plale with County Supervisor Chris Larson, his opponent in the primary.

Cable television executives were also sprinkled throughout Plale's report, kicking in $2,650, no doubt with more to come later. Why do they like him? After accepting almost $50,000 in contributions from the industry, Plale in 2007 co-suthored a cable deregulation bill the industry wanted.

After accepting a paltry (in comparison) $6,500 from people who wanted telephone deregulation, Plale introduced a bill -- written with the help of the phone companies and their lobbyists -- to deregulate telephone companies.

Starting to see a pattern here?

Plale's report is also filled with lobbyists, road builders, realtors, you name it -- anybody who wants something from him. In some cases the donations may be thanks for what he's already done, but they'll all be back next session looking for more.

Even the two top guys at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Jim Haney and Jim Buchen, kicked in $250 apiece. They're usually rabid Republicans, as are many of Plale's donors -- but he's not exactly a typical Democrat. He's a Blue Dog at best, and that is probably a stretch.

It's impossible to know or prove, of course, what's cause and what's effect. Do the special interests pour money into Plale's campaign because he agrees with them and has already done things they want to reward? Or do they give so Plale will do nice things for them in the future?

Some people say the legislature works like a vending machine -- put your money and legislation comes out. But sometimes the machine jams and you lose your money, or you have to start over and put money in again.

Some people call it Pay to Play. But that's almost impossible to prove, that there is any quid pro quo involved.

But one thing's for sure. The State Senator from South Milwaukee has some unusual friends. And they're willing to play the game, whatever it is, to keep him in office.

Just call it Pay to Plale.


July 27, 2010 - 8:30pm