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Secret donations provide hidden power in WI democracy, residents’ budgets squeezed, lead in MI schools’ water, Foxconn runoff, rural schools losing students

Of note: This week we draw your attention to our latest story in the series, Undemocratic: Secrecy and Power vs. The People. In this installment, reporter Pawan Naidu exposes the behind-the-scenes influence that special interests have in Wisconsin politics, including millions in secret contributions that flow to so-called issue ad groups, which are not required to report their donors. The story leads with the case of Yasmine Clark, who was lead-poisoned as a child. After a lead company executive secretly donated $750,000 to a group seeking to help Republicans facing recalls in 2011 and 2012, a lobbyist for the lead industry convinced GOP leaders to insert language into the state budget wiping out the lawsuits of 170 lead-poisoned children, including Yasmine. While judges overturned that law change, the episode demonstrated the power that secret political contributions occupy in Wisconsin’s democracy.

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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Secret cash aided politicians who rewrote Wisconsin law to block claims of lead-poisoned children

Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism — September 2, 2018

Reporter Pawan Naidu connects the dots between a lawsuit seeking justice for lead-poisoned children and an attempt by Republican politicians to change Wisconsin law to protect the companies alleged to be at fault. The connection: the companies’ secret campaign contributions. Also: The Wausau Daily Herald reports that Central Wisconsin residents will soon vote on whether to change campaign finance laws: Citizens United question set for November ballots in Wood County, Weston, Rib Mountain

More than one-third of Wisconsin households can’t afford basic necessities, report says

Wisconsin Public Radio – August 29, 2018

According to a new report from the United Way of Wisconsin, more than one-third of Wisconsin households can’t afford a “household survival budget” of housing, food, transportation, health insurance, childcare, and a phone — basic necessities would cost a Wisconsin family of four about $60,000.  The report reveals challenges confronting working adults as costs rise while salaries — after adjusting for inflation — haven’t changed much since the 1980s.

Detroit public schools shut off drinking water because of ‘elevated levels’ of lead, copper

Washington Post – August 30, 2018

Detroit school district officials announced last Wednesday, less than a week before the first day of school, that they would shut off drinking water to all city schools, citing concern about lead and copper levels. Recent tests found elevated levels of potentially toxic heavy metals at 16 of 24 schools tested, and water had already been shut off at 18 other schools. The schools will be provided with bottled water until the water is determined to be safe for drinking. Earlier from WCIJ: ‘Regulatory vacuum’ exposes Wisconsin children to lead in drinking water at schools, day care centers

Torrent of stormwater spills from Foxconn construction site after heavy weekend rains

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – September 5, 2018

Heavy rains earlier this week again raised concerns about how Foxconn’s construction plans might impact flooding in surrounding areas of Wisconsin and Illinois. “Clearly, this past weekend, the last few days, there has been a problem,” said Kelly Gallagher, a member of A Better Mount Pleasant, who filmed water pouring from the construction site in Racine into the Pike River on Monday afternoon. The project management company, M+W I Gilbrane, said that the site was “being managed with due diligence.”

Wisconsin’s rural schools are getting squeezed by student loss

UW Applied Population Lab — August 16, 2018

The University of Wisconsin Applied Population Lab has released a study on how the way we fund our schools places a higher burden of support on rural residents. According to the study, enrollment in rural school districts is declining more dramatically than in suburban and urban districts. Since the state allots less funding to schools with lower enrollment, the authors say that “rural districts are confronted with challenging decisions,” like what to cut from budgets or whether to delay renovations. Earlier from WCIJ: Hispanic immigrants help rural county stave off population dip

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism ( collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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