Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

Ethanol bill: Just what would be a conflict of interest?

Ethanol, Ethics, Going Green, Legislation, Truth, WISCONSIN

First, let me share my response from our own Governor Jim Doyle to my plea to him to oppose the ethanol mandate. Notice how the highlighted statements match rather closely to an email (in bold) from ethanol producer Paul Olsen (Senator Luther Olsen's brother).

"From: Paul Olsen
Sent: Friday, February 01, 2008 7:43 AM

Subject: State Sen. Olsen drops role in pushing

alternative fuel mandate

Renewable fuels...
creates jobs $$$$
clean environment $$$$$
supports local economy $$$$$$$
keeps our dollars home $$$$$$$$$$$
its the future $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
a flip flop senator who doesn't defend reality



Now for the conflict of interest issue.


We know that Senate Bill 380 sponsor Senator Olsen removed his name from the bill and will abstain from voting for it due to a perceived conflict of interest. That article from the Oshkosh Northwestern paper stated: (Emphasis added)

Olsen came under fire shortly after the bill was introduced in early January because he has family ties to the ethanol industry and is a part owner of a grain mill that sells corn for ethanol production. Olsen was a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 380, which would require vehicle fuel distributors to make renewable fuels 25 percent of their total sales volume by 2025.

On Wednesday, Wisconsin Government Accountability Board Director Kevin Kennedy indicating Olsen's support of the bill would not violate conflict of interest statutes even though Olsen has a one-third ownership stake in Olsen's Mill, a family business that sells corn to Olsen's brother's ethanol plant, Utica Energy LLC...

...The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board's Standards of Conduct for elected officials generally requires legislators to step away from discussions, votes or support for legislation that will have a benefit for the legislator, a member of the official's immediate family or any organizations with which the legislator is associated...

...Kennedy's decision indicates "immediate family" applies to a spouse or children, but not to brothers or sisters. He said the actual impact of the legislation on Olsen's Mill, in which Luther Olsen has a financial interest, would be "unspecific and speculative."

"Thus, based the facts you have provided, in my view you may participate in the sponsorship, consideration and vote on legislative proposals that increase incentives for manufacturing and using ethanol and renewable fuels without violating laws administered by the Government Accountability Board," Kennedy's letter reads.

So, according to the Government Accountability Board, there was no real conflict of interest.

But here is another tidbit from Jay Webber that I was unaware of. (My alarm is set to WISN so I catch a bit of his radio show each morning.) According to Jay this morning, ethanol producers cannot purchase corn from just anyone--it is not like just any Farmer John Doe can take his load of corn to Senator Luther Olsen's brother's Utica Energy LLC ethanol factory. No, Jay said it had to come from a licensed grain mill, such as Olsen Mill, the one Senator Luther Olsen is a co-owner of!  To me, that really crowds that perceived conflict of interest line.

Jay also told about a very interesting email Charlie Sykes spoke about on his radio show. It was from Senator Luther Olsen's Chief of Staff Heather Smith. It evidently is a response to an email sent by Luther's brother Paul. Pretty interesting stuff. The complete email is at the bottom of the Charlie Sykes link. Here are just a few excerpts:

Why? [does Luther have a target on his back over this issue] Because of you [brother Paul]. They know that you are the c h i n k in Luther's armor. It doesn't matter what any ethics board says about if it's ok or not. Anyone who is not completely retarded running a political campaign knows how to make a perceived ethical problem look just as bad as a real one.

So, in other words, she does not think there is any real conflict of interest! 


I also found it interesting that Ms. Smith noted there was not one call from a constituent in favor of ethanol--after all, their calls would be from Luther Olsen's district, presumably a more favorable district toward ethanol considering the potential for new jobs.

There were not a hundred calls, or ten, or EVEN ONE CALL from a constituent who wanted to tell Luther, "Heck yeah, vote for this, it's great!" We got a memo from a "special interest group" and the DNR, and heaven knows the DNR should always be listened to.


Is it any wonder we need to watch all of our politicians regardless of their party? 


Let Governor Doyle know if you agree with his assessment of ethanol in Wisconsin. 

Governor Doyle

608-266-1212, 414-227-4344


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Blogs: Brookfield7, Fairlyconservative

Links: Betterbrookfield Vicki Mckenna 


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