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Standing up to Corporate Intimidation of Local Officials

When Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and industry lobbyists threatened Polk County officials with criminal charges over efforts to protect their water, MEA helped them stand their ground and speak out against efforts to intimidate them.

Case Summary

In 2020, when Polk County residents heard about plans to build a massive hog confinement facility in their community, they were concerned about threats to clean air and water. A group of community members reached out to MEA for support and guidance as they worked to develop more protective local regulations.

That fall, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) and industrial agriculture lobbyists sent Polk County board supervisors a threatening letter alleging the supervisors could face criminal felony liability for efforts to protect water from CAFO pollution. In response, MEA attorneys helped community members stand their ground and speak out against efforts to intimidate them.

In addition to laying out the legal basis for local authority to regulate large livestock operations, MEA helped initiate a larger conversation among county officials in other parts of Wisconsin who were concerned about what was happening in Polk County. Soon, local officials from across the state came together to speak out publicly against the escalating rhetoric and intimidation tactics coming from lobbyists for the CAFO industry.

The Wisconsin Counties Association released a memorandum voicing strong opposition to the tactics used by WMC and industrial agriculture lobbyists in their communication with Polk County officials.

Moreover, attorneys for the Wisconsin Counties Association issued a legal analysis refuting the legal basis for the threats made against the county and county supervisors. An official response from an organization like WCA sends an important signal to corporate lobbyists that attempting to bully county officials into submission is an attack on fair and representative democracy.

Lisa Doerr

Laketown, WI

News Related to this Case

Press Release

MEA Files Motion to Intervene After WMC Launches Legal Attack on the Authority of Local Governments to Regulate CAFOs

MEA filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit initiated by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. The motion to intervene was filed on behalf of the Town of Eureka, a community in Polk County. At issue in the case is the authority of local governments to regulate CAFOs. Five towns enacted similar ordinances after an Iowa company announced plans to build a massive confinement facility in the area.

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