Welcome to Wisconsin, where April Fool’s Day lasts all year!
How about Mike Huebsch, head of our state Public Service Commission, declaring that global warming is caused by volcanoes, not people?
And check out our tea party state treasurer, Matt Adamczyk. Comedy fans should not miss the audio of a teleconference in which Adamczyk attacks Tia Nelson, daughter of the great environmentalist Gaylord Nelson and head of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, for daring to utter the words “climate change.”
The land board, Wisconsin’s oldest state agency, manages public forests and a trust fund from their sale that finances school libraries and makes loans to municipalities. The state constitution states that the board shall be overseen by the state treasurer, the attorney general and the secretary of state. Secretary of State Doug La Follette has been on the board for 30 years. Recently, he’s been joined by Adamczyk, who ran on the promise to eliminate his own job, and Attorney General Brad Schimel, who is pressing Gov. Scott Walker’s lawsuit against the EPA for trying to enforce federal emissions rules.
Adamczyk kicked off the April 7 meeting with this line of attack:
“Tia did you ever get explicit permission from the board to lobby on global warming?” he demands.
By “lobbying,” he means Nelson’s work on a climate-change task force to which she was appointed by former Gov. Jim Doyle.
“It honestly never occurred to me that being asked by a sitting governor to sit on a citizen task force would be objectionable,” Nelson responds. “But I did notify board members, and none of them objected.”
La Follette, who plays straight man throughout the meeting to the comedy duo of Adamczyk and Schimel, confirms that no one on the board thought there was anything fishy about Nelson serving on the task force.
“This is foolishness,” La Follette adds.
That’s where Adamczyk really gets into gear: “Well, it’s foolishness for the executive director of a board of public lands to engage in lobbying on global warming,” he says.
“Ms. Nelson flew out to Washington, D.C., and spent the whole day out there testifying on global warming!” he adds.
How, he demands, does that help the children of Wisconsin?
Nelson responds with a detailed account of her day in Washington testifying — not lobbying — before Congress, but mostly meeting with Senate staff on land board business.
“My recollection was it was a 12-hour day, and I spent 10 hours on BCPL business,” she says.
“Well, I guess there’s no way to know that,” Adamczyk retorts.
“I don’t want anyone in this agency to work on that topic again,” he says.
Schimel introduces a motion prohibiting staff from engaging in future climate change work. Here La Follette breaks in: “I’ve never seen such nonsense. We’ve reached the point where we are going to try to gag staff from talking on an issue?”
Well, Adamczyk shoots back, “It’s ridiculous that we have to do this.”
Schimel adds, helpfully, “I don’t believe this is a gag of any kind.”
La Follette asks what happens if staff are asked to comment on how climate change affects forest land.
“I find that would not be very likely,” Adamczyk scoffs.
Actually, Nelson points out, “There are working groups up north looking at how climate change impacts certain timber species. It is far from inconceivable that I would be asked a question,” she says.
Well, our climate-denier state treasurer tells her, she can just refer such questions to him and Schimel!
“If Tia gets one email question, she can forward it to us,” Adamczyk says. “I wish we didn’t have to prohibit this,” he says sighing, but “this wasn’t just one email.” Nelson has been spending “a lot of her time” on climate change.
“Just for the record,” Nelson says, “I haven’t worked on this since 2008, or 2007, actually.”
Adamczyk presses her: “Is this something you are actively lobbying on on state time?”
Once again, Nelson patiently explains that she has never “lobbied” on the issue — only answered questions put to her by Congress and by the timber industry.
None of that troubles Adamcyzk. As though speaking of global warming were akin to watching porn, he explains there are lots of topics state workers should not discuss on state time. But, he says, “I don’t want us to do a motion on everything.”
Then Schimel and Adamczyk vote two-to-one against La Follette to prohibit land board staff from talking about or working on climate change.
Earth Day turns 45 years old next week. Tia Nelson’s dad is rolling over in his grave.
Ruth Conniff is editor of The Progressive magazine.