Ethics complaint filed against Tim Michels for his unacceptable conflicts of interest

October 13, 2022

On October 11, 2022, an ethics complaint was filed with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission against Tim Michels in his bid for governor of Wisconsin. Among other things, the complaint alleges that because his business interests are heavily invested in energy markets, being governor of Wisconsin is a conflict of interests and would make it not only advantageous, but convenient and likely he would abuse his authority and power.

In January 2022, Michels signed a contract with Enbridge Energy to build a new Line 5 pipeline in northern Wisconsin. According to Wisconsin State Legislature 19.45 Standards of Conduct, state public officials who profit from being in office are in violation of the public trust: (1) The legislature hereby reaffirms that a state public official holds his or her position as a public trust, and any effort to realize substantial personal gain through official conduct is a violation of that trust.

Michels and his family have received over $1 billion in road construction contracts through the State of Wisconsin, and even though he assures the public that he will untangle himself from this if he becomes governor, the ties between the Michels Corporation and the State run deep. His claims that he has divested himself of these interests have no substantiating verification and he has so far spent $18 million of his pipeline profits to run for the seat that would then give him complete control over the regulatory process that oversees his businesses.

The Governor of the State of Wisconsin hires and fires the head of the Wisconsin DNR. The Wisconsin DNR issues pipelines permits and is considering Issuing one for the Line 5 reroute. That Michels has already signed on to build the line presents not only a massive and unacceptable conflict of interest, but reveals that Michels will profit off not just building the pipeline, but from the myriad of other companies involved in the construction of the line.

Michels appears to have several conflict of interests:

  • In his Statement of Economic Interests, Michels lists 50 corporations he holds investments in valued at greater than $50,000 and 668 customers and clients who will have direct access to his office if elected;
  • On April 28, 2022, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Tim Michels hopes his family business continues to bid on state contracts;
  • In 2019, Michels was elected to the Board of Directors of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the state’s most powerful business lobby;
  • Enbridge, with whom Michels has already secured a contract for Line 5, could face millions in fines for failing to report a spill In Fort Atkinson, WI in 2018. The foreign corporation waited 15 months to report the spill and grossly underestimated the size, which has grown to over 8,000 gallons. There is still massive remediation going on;
  • One of Michel’s pipeline contractors, Precision Pipeline, working for Enbridge, is responsible for over 300 million gallons of groundwater being lost due to Enbridge’s failures in Minnesota while building Line 3. In August, it was confirmed that Enbridge’s “fix” of the Line 3 aquifer breach at LaSalle Creek was a failure and has been continuously stealing water from the ground—about 20 gallons of groundwater per minute —in addition to other unreported ongoing construction damage. The Enbridge aquifer breach near Fond du Lac is not fully repaired. This is the foreign corporation that has hired Michels Pipeline in Wisconsin.
  • Enbridge’s Line 3 horizontal directional drilling failure rate was 63%. The amount of toxic frac-out fluid released into surface and groundwater has never been reported, the impact on water quality ignored by the Canadian corporation and Minnesota state agencies. With Michels in charge of Wisconsin, these dangers could pose even greater threat.
  • It is questionable how long Michels has actually lived in Wisconsin, as he has several million-dollar homes in New York City and Connecticut and appears to have raised his children there. On May 2, 2022, he confirmed that he has lived about half the time in Manhattan and Connecticut, where his children attended schools since 2013.
Michels’ Connecticut home. Photo: Realtor.com

The proposed Line 5 oil pipeline in Northern Wisconsin crosses more than 180 rivers and streams that flow indirectly into the Great Lakes, waters that supply drinking water to over 40 million people. The man who is already hired to build the pipeline by a foreign corporation whose track record includes the worst oil spills in American history should not be allowed to run for governor.

In these times of crushing government overreach, Michels for governor is environmental suicide.

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