Conservatives turn Wisconsin red, frac sand mine reclaimed, and what was Russian spy doing with Gov. Scott Walker?

Of note: It was a big news week, with U.S. Justice Department prosecutors indicting an alleged Russian spy who sought to ingratiate herself with U.S. politicians, including, as it turns out, Gov. Scott Walker. A New York Times review of a book by Dan Kaufman, a Wisconsin native, dissects how rich donors turned once-progressive Wisconsin into a “laboratory” of conservative politics.

The results of a study WCIJ highlighted four years ago are in: Frac sand mine sites can be reclaimed. And the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel summarizes a report warning that some Wisconsin communities, including Milwaukee and Racine, do not have enough money set aside to pay their retirees’ health care.

WisconsinWeekly is produced by Dee and Andy Hall, a couple who founded the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Dee is the managing editor and Andy is the executive director.

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Scott Walker met with woman now charged in Russian plot during his presidential bid

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — July 16, 2018

A Siberian woman charged as part of an alleged Russian plot to interfere with U.S. politics was at Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential campaign launch and said she did not see him as being hostile toward Russia. The woman, Maria Butina, attempted to make inroads with American politicians to influence U.S. policies toward Russia. In Facebook posts, Butina said she met with Walker and other politicians in Tennessee and Walker greeted her in Russian.

How conservatives bet big on Wisconsin and won

Books of The Times — July 11, 2018

Dan Kaufman, a Wisconsin native and author of “The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics,” shows how the state became a laboratory for the rest of the nation.

Researchers find promising results in frac sand mine reclamation test plot

Wisconsin Public Radio — July 11, 2018

A five-year study in Chippewa County has transformed a reclaimed frac sand mine into a successful wild prairie. Researchers are hopeful that lesson learned can be used at other mining operations around the state beginning to fill in their pits. In Chippewa County alone, there are 85 active sand and gravel operations in different phases on the reclamation process. Seven of those are large-scale frac sand mines. Earlier from WCIJ: With frac sand boom in full swing study to guide mine reclamation.

Wisconsin’s largest cities face $2.25 billion in unfunded retiree health care liabilities

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — July 16, 2018

The money needed to fund future Wisconsin retiree health care continues to rise, despite some progress toward decreasing the unfunded dollars in some cities. Between 2013 and 2016, the state’s largest 25 cities held unfunded retiree health care liabilities valued at $4.25 billion, despite several cities seeing their unfunded commitments decrease. While 23 of Wisconsin’s largest cities decreased their net liability, Milwaukee and Racine’s costs alone erased that gain.

The byline "Wisconsin Watch" represents members of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism's editorial and public engagement and marketing staff.