March 10, 2011- More details on the upcoming fundraiser for members of the Wisconsin state Senate GOP in the headquarters of a prominent DC lobbying firm are coming to light.
In short, when members of the state Senate caucus that just voted to strip state workers of their collective bargaining rights gather in the downtown DC offices of a lobbying firm founded in part by Haley Barbour, they'll be among friends.
The BGR Group, the lobbying firm Barbour helped to found in 1991, has long been known for its ties to the GOP. Among its executives are Bob Wood, a former aide to Tommy Thompson, the Republican governor of Wisconsin for 14 years. And on BGR's past client list is a large energy company – and that's raising eyebrows with watchdog groups.
On Thursday, the Public Campaign Action Fund, a nonprofit advocate for campaign finance reform, pointed out that WE Energies, an energy utility based in Milwaukee, has spent more than $300,000 on lobbying with BGR since 2009.
Executives with the company gave more than $10,000 to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) 2010 campaign. And WE Energies' ties to the Republican state Senate caucus run even deeper than that: Heather Leibham, who has worked for the company in state regulatory advocacy, is the wife of state Sen. Joe Liebham (R), who cast his vote against collective bargaining rights this week along with 17 of his Republican colleagues.
Somewhat lost in all the labor-based controversy surrounding Walker's budget plan has been controversial language in the budget that critics have said could mean a big payday for energy companies in Wisconsin. TPM's reporting has suggested those fears may be unfounded.
Regardless, Republicans may be stepping on to a political landmine when they arrive at the ritzy offices of one of DC's most powerful lobbying firms next week.