Last year, a provision in Scott Walker's budget that lifted Wisconsin's ban on foreign ownership of more than 640 acres was met with a serious backlash. Chinese or other foreign investors could already buy a square mile of Wisconsin and Walker wanted that cap lifted. In a rare moment of bipartisanship, Wisconsinites were almost universally outraged and Walker quietly removed the item from the budget.
Then, in June 2013, Reuters reported that Chinese company Shuanghui International's planned $4.7 billion purchase of U.S. pork powerhouse Smithfield Foods was in jeopardy because Smithfield Foods has operations in Wisconsin and several other states that have caps on foreign ownership:
The statutes in question, some first adopted during the 1970s in response to fast-paced Japanese investment in U.S. real estate, restrict foreign businesses or governments from owning or controlling U.S. land used for livestock or crop production. The laws could provide Midwestern states legal recourse against the Smithfield deal.
At least eight states - Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin - have laws that prohibit foreign ownership of agricultural land. If the Shuanghui acquisition goes through, any hog farms, crop fields, manure lagoons or other land used for agricultural production and now owned by Smithfield in these states, could invite legal challenges.
Smithfield's 11 slaughterhouses and meat factories in the eight states likely are exempt, legal experts said. However, some of those operations may rely on farm, feed or waste facilities that could be subject to legal challenge.
If you're a multi-national corporation—especially a CHINESE corporation—and you're in trouble, who you gonna call? Wisconsin Republicans!
Now, intrepid State Representative, Andy Jergensen, is sounding the alarm that the Wisconsin Republicans have answered that call and are coming to the rescue of the Chinese company, except they have figured out a way to try and make this go down with as little political blood loss as possible: Blame it on a trade deal passed at the Federal Level. Our hands are tied!
To set this up, they've asked Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to offer an opinion. Spoiler alert: He's going to find, as Rep. Jergensen said, "a way to make the ban unenforceable." The reasoning, of course, that a federal law would trump the state law.
All of this sounds a little bit too similar to "insourcing," the phrase coined in the 2012 satire, The Campaign, which featured two Koch-like brothers (The Motchs) enlisting a Congressional candidate (Marty Huggins) in a scheme to buy up large swaths of land in the U.S. and sell it back to the Chinese to "double our already double profits":
Motch: We have purchased the rights and large tracts of land in your district and we will be building three factories that will create 8,000 jobs and over a billion dollars in revenue a year. And we immediately sold that real estate to the People Republic of China for a massive profit.
Marty Huggins: I'm sorry, who?
Motch: Oh, the Fourteenth District now belongs to China...Gānbēi!
Marty Huggins: I guess those jobs will be good for the district.
Motch: Actually, American workers are paid wayyyyy to much to book the profits we're accustomed-to, so we'll be bringing-in low paid Chinese labor, they'll clock-in at 50 cents an hour... we call the concept: Insourcing. And we "insourcing" in all your campaign speeches.
Marty Huggins: It just seems like you're building a big sweat shop in Hammand-- if you've got factories in China, why do you have to bring them here?
Motch: We'll save a fortune on shipping. It will double our already double profits!
What's next? Scott Walker appearing on Chinese television with a Chinese lapel pin saying saying our relaitonship with China is "good and fair"? Oh, wait... nevermind.