The war between Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and its liberal critics escalated today as WMC wrapped itself in the flag of free speech and denounced the critics for running "an organized campaign involving misinformation, intimidation and threats of boycott."
The WMC opinion column, widely distributed to the media, is written by James Buchen, WMC's vice president for government relations.
He charges: "The effort is being spearheaded by certain Madison-based politicos, unions, and other like-minded interest groups who feel that the business community, and more specifically WMC, have been too effective at blocking their political and policy agendas."
Here is the full statement (PDF).
As combative as the statement is, Buchen makes no direct mention of Epic Systems Corp., the fast-growing Verona software firm that set off the dispute last week by announcing it would try not to do business with vendors who belong to WMC.
Epic's management said it was taking the step because of WMC's controversial role in unseating Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler in last spring's election.
Saying the election was a "travesty in ethics" and that many observers held WMC responsible for the mud throwing, Epic's managers said they felt an obligation to take a stand against a group that "undermines society's basic principles."
Buchen, however, denounced such criticism as an effort "to silence the primary voice of the business perspective."
The war of words over the decision by Epic continues online, meanwhile. George Lightbourn published a commentary for the conservative Wisconsin Policy Research Institute claiming that Epic CEO Judy Faulkner and the company are "huge beneficiaries of WMC's work," in turn drawing a response from Paul Soglin declaring that there "are business owners of all kinds of political views and values in this state."