Eric J. Petersen

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Eric J. Petersen is a lobbyist based in Madison, Wisconsin.

In 2017, his client list of 26 includes major corporations such as Reynolds Tobacco, the bail bonds industry, lead paint manufacturers and others.[1]

Wisconsin John Doe Investigation

Eric Petersen and his client, NL Industries run by Texas billionaire Harold Simmons made an appearance in the "John Doe II" criminal investigation of whether or not Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker illegally coordinated with dark money groups during the 2011-2012 recall elections.

In September 2016 the Guardian published an in-depth report on the long-running Wisconsin John Doe investigation into whether or not Scott Walker coordinated his recall campaign activities with outside money groups. [2]

The Guardian published never before seen documents that indicated Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker may have secretly solicited $750,000 in personal and corporate checks from Texas billionaire Harold Simmons. Simmons was the owner of numerous businesses, including a lead pigment firm called NL Industries (formerly National Lead), which sold toxic paint and other products containing lead for decades. CONTRAN Corporation was a Simmons holding company of which NL Industries was a part.

The corporate checks from CONTRAN and personal checks from Simmons, were deposited into the coffers of dark money group Wisconsin Club for Growth, were followed by a late night unconstitutional to WIsconsin's budget bill that attempted to retroactively nullify lawsuits brought by 173 poisoned children against NL Industries and other lead pigment manufacturers. The four word change was slipped into a 600 page budget bill with a “Motion 999” in the dead of night with no public notice.[3]

The language was given to legislators by Petersen in a memo and it was copied verbatim into Wisconsin’s budget bill. The memo (attached here) shows Eric Petersen, demanding the law change as a “Major EP Priority" and have a handwritten notation indicating that the language was from NL Industries [4][5]

Politicians have been prohibited from soliciting and corporations have been banned from giving these types of checks since 1905, as CMD explains in a report on the John Doe revelations in the Guardian.[6]

The scheme to strip Wisconsin children of their legal rights failed. The retroactive cancellation of lawsuits on behalf of 173 children was struck down as unconstitutional by state and federal courts, and Wisconsin children were still in court in 2017 battling to hold the industry accountable for the harms it has caused.

Right-wing politicians and pundits defend the lead industry by saying lead was “required” in paint by the government. But the truth is that over 100 years ago, paint manufacturers knew that lead was a “deadly cumulative toxin,” yet they continued to lobby for governments to require its use in pipes, paint, and other products. Since the 1920s, the industry has battled bans, restrictions, and even warning labels as children suffered catastrophic poisonings and brain damage. Even today, old lead paint is still the most significant source of poisoning for children. Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services (DHS), says that 21 percent of children under the age of 6 suffer from lead poisoning. [7][8]

But Walker’s DHS steadfastly refuses to adopt lead-poisoning standards consistent with federal standards even though they are required to do so, says Rep. Taylor, who has been battling for the change. [9]

Milwaukee Bucks Stadium and Corporate Welfare

On August 12, 2015, Scott Walker committed $250 million in public funds for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena, at the same time cutting that exact amount ($250 million) from the state budget.[10] He was able to get the bill passed through the legislature despite opposition from both sides of the aisle.[11]

Initially Walker opposed the new Bucks arena, but ultimately changed his tune. The Guardian leaks pertaining to the John Doe investigation revealed that Jon Hammes, the owner of the Bucks, was one of the contributors who had donated to Walker by giving secretly through the Wisconsin Club for Growth. Emails show that Hammes donated his corporate jet to the Walker campaign and one email instructed Walker to ask Hammes for $100,000 and another $100,000 from Ted Kellner, another owner of the Bucks. The records show at least a $25,000 check from HP Securities, the corporation Hammes frequently used to provide checks and funnel money. Politicians have been prohibited from soliciting and corporations have been banned from giving these types of checks since 1905, as CMD explains in a report on the John Doe revelations in the Guardian.[12]

Petersen played a central roll in lobbying on behalf of the Bucks, along with Madison based colleague and consultant Bill McCoshen of the lobby shop Capitol Consultants. [13]

Representing Bail Bonds Industry

Petersen specialized in getting his client’s agenda into budget bills in late night votes, avoiding scrutiny from the press and public. At the same time that he slipped the lead language into the budget, he slipped in the privatization of Wisconsin bail bonds system, a piece of legislation later vetoed by Governor Walker. Petersen represented the bail bonds industry at the time.[14][15]

Casino Deal Sparks FBI Inquiry

Petersen lobbied on behalf of a proposed casino in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Based on a contract uncovered by state and federal investigators Petersen and Madison lobbyist Bill McCoshen (former chief of staff to Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thomspon) of Madison Consulting LLC, would have earned $46.5 million from the deal, according to newspaper accounts. [16]

From Associated Press:

"Regulators are looking into a contract struck by a former aide to Tommy Thompson and his partner, who would share $46.5 million if a casino is built in Kenosha, a newspaper reported…

William McCoshen, 36, and his lobbying partner, Eric Petersen, 34, would split the money with the estate of Petersen's mentor, Jim Wimmer, the report said. The three own Madison Consulting LLC, according to records in Wimmer's probate file.

Regulators in four states are looking into a secret agreement between Madison Consulting and the managers of the proposed casino, the newspaper said.

Sources told the columnists that the regulators recently talked to FBI agents about the contract. "Part of good police work is looking for flags," said Indiana State Police Maj. Mark Mason. "This raised a red flag."

Menominee tribal leaders said they were shocked when they found out last fall how wealthy their casino would make the Madison lobbyists. "I was absolutely floored that a contract of that size... was not made available to the tribal legislature," said Sylvia Wilber, a member of the Menominee legislature.

Contact

Employer: Wimmer and Company
Phone: (608).256.5223
E-mail: ejp@wimmerandco.net

References

  1. Wisconsin Ethics Commission, Lobbying, Eye On Lobbying, 2013-2014 Legislative Session.
  2. Ed Pilkington, Leaked court documents from ‘John Doe investigation’ in Wisconsin lay bare pervasive influence of corporate cash on modern US elections, The Guardian, September 14, 2016.
  3. Mary Bottari, Secret Donors, Secret Agendas: Guardian Pulls Back the Curtain on Walker Corruption Probe, PRWatch, September 14, 2016.
  4. Wisconsin Ethics Commission, NL Industries Lobbying Principals, Eye On Lobbying, 2013-2014 Legislative Session.
  5. Eric J. Petersen, Memo, PRWatch, April 29, 2013.
  6. Mary Bottari, Scott Walker John Doe: Corporate Checks Fueled Coordinated Campaign, PRWatch, September 15, 2016.
  7. Marcia Anderson, Lead Poisoning: The Single Most Significant Environmental Health Threat to American Children EPA Greening Apple, October 16, 2012.
  8. Mary Bottari, Scott Walker Backers Defend Lead and Wisconsin's Poisoned Politics, PRWatch, October 17, 2016.
  9. Rep. Chris Taylor, Poisoned politics threaten state's children, The Cap Times, September 26, 2016.
  10. Mary Spicuzza, Jason Stein and Crocker Stephenson, Scott Walker signs bill clearing public funds for new Bucks arena, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 12, 2015.
  11. Jordan Phelps, Scott Walker Defends Tax Dollars, Possible Rate Hike for New Sports Arena, ABC News, June 7, 2015.
  12. Mary Bottari, Scott Walker John Doe: Corporate Checks Fueled Coordinated Campaign, PRWatch, September 15, 2016.
  13. Horn, Steve, Meet the Lobbyists Who Got a $250 Million Subsidy for a Milwaukee NBA Arena, Nation of Change, August 11, 2015.
  14. Brendan Fischer, Gov. Walker Vetoes Bail Bonds, Attack on Investigative Journalism, PRWatch, July 1, 2013.
  15. Wisconsin Ethics Commission, NL Industries Lobbying Principals, Eye On Lobbying, 2013-2014 Legislative Session.
  16. WIRE, Kenosha casino would line pockets of ex-Thompson aide, April 16, 2001.

Resources

Leaked court documents from ‘John Doe investigation’ in Wisconsin lay bare pervasive influence of corporate cash on modern US elections, The Guardian, September 14, 2016.

Brad Schimel's Dirty Power Play, PRWatch, December 10, 2015.

Scott Walker Backers Defend Lead and Wisconsin's Poisoned Politics, PRWatch, October 17, 2016.