The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s Epic Fail

Facts are stubborn things. Especially when you get even the basic ones wrong.

That’s exactly what Matt Rothschild, the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (WDC) did on Tuesday in an attack on an upcoming bill making its way through the Wisconsin state legislature which would mitigate wetlands permits from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

At the bill’s core is a provision which would allow landowners and utilities the ability to bypass permits if they fill in an area of wetland no bigger than 10,000 square feet. Anything larger would require a DNR permit.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign is an alleged non-partisan advocacy group.

Unfortunately for Rothschild – a former senior editor at Progressive Magazine – he either misread the bill or didn’t care about the actual specifics. As in his original post (since corrected), Rothschild wrote that “Utilities Would Be Free to Destroy 9,999 Acres of Wetlands” on his website’s blog.

Utilities and power cooperatives are behind bills under consideration Tuesday by the legislature that would allow them to destroy 9,999 acres of wetlands.


Current law requires anyone who wants to fill a wetland to get a permit from the state Department of Natural Resources that requires the holder to mitigate, which means replace, create, or restore, other wetlands in its place.


The state’s utilities and power and water cooperatives would no longer be required to mitigate other wetlands if they fill less than 10,000 acres of wetlands, according to the measures, Senate Bill 406 and Assembly Bill 497.

Rothschild then spends the rest of the blog post going after the amount of money utilities have given to the various legislative campaign committees servicing both sides of the political aisle. In addition to going after the money given to state politicians by utilities, WDC attacks Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) for spending millions to elect Republican politicians.

Since then, WDC has corrected its post to say “square feet” instead of “acres.”

How off was Rothschild’s original math? A lot.

See, one acre of land equates to 43,560 square feet. Meaning the bill itself allows less than one-quarter of an acre to used before a permit would be required. In order to cover the 9,999 acres WDC initially claimed the bill gave clearance for, you’d actually need 435,556,440 square feet to equate to that amount of acreage.

Put it another, that’s around 15.62 square miles. An area just slightly larger than the city of Racine.

Asked to comment on WDC’s gaffe, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce’s Lucas Vebber issued the following statement:

“In their haste to attack this legislation and drive donations to their own bottom line, it seems that the folks at the fake good government issue-advocacy group that calls themselves the “Wisconsin Democracy Campaign” failed to actually read the bill.”

It’s said “Reading is fundamental.” Clearly for Rothschild and the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, they need some assistance in that discipline.