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THE DARK SIDE: The polar bears don’t need your money

Wisconsin law governing fraudulent misrepresentations can fairly be described as charitable. It’s too bad the law doesn’t apply to so-called charities, which are some of the worst fraudsters operating in this state.

Section 100.18 creates a private cause of action for fraudulent misrepresentations in advertising regarding the sale of goods, services, securities, real estate or employment. The statute allows the recovery of full attorney fees, and in some cases, double damages.

As noted, the law is liberally construed.

“The public” is defined to be as small as one person. Kailin v. Armstrong, 252 Wis.2d 676 (Ct.App.2002).

Unlike common law causes of action for misrepresentations, a plaintiff is not required to show reasonable reliance on the misrepresentation. K & S Tool & Die Corp. v. Perfection Machinery Sales Inc., 301 Wis.2d 109, 732 N.W.2d 792 (2007).

The economic loss doctrine does not apply. See Kailin.

And all damages are recoverable, regardless of whether they flow from the misrepresentation. Stuart v. Weisflog’s Showroom Gallery Inc., 311 Wis.2d 492, 753 N.W.2d 448 (2008).

I’m not taking issue with any of these interpretations. I’m simply observing that, whether you agree with them or not, the law is friendly to consumers bringing false advertising claims. As one former judge once remarked to me, “You can tell the good attorneys, because they always allege some type of statutory misrepresentation claim in any contract dispute.”

Now, if only we could bring these laws to bear against charities that ask for donations based on patently fraudulent claims.

I saw one of the most egregious examples of this sort of fraud the other day. Some envirofacist organization ran a commercial asking for money to prevent global warming. The thrust of their appeal was that the habitat and population of polar bears is shrinking, and that two-thirds of the polar bear population will soon die, unless you give them money.

The reality, of course, is quite to the contrary. The polar bear population is actually expanding exponentially, as is their territory.

Since 1985, the polar bear population has actually doubled. Human communities where polar bears were once unknown now have significant problems with polar bears.

Do the math. Polar bears are expanding south, not retreating north, which is what they would be doing if the global warming myth was actually real.

Nevertheless, these hucksters and snake-oil salesmen air commercials on television stations in Wisconsin asking consumers to send them money so they can prevent the extinction of a species that is actually expanding its boundaries and increasing its population.

In a civilized state, we would have a statute like sec. 100.18 that included within its purview the grifters seeking donations to solve a non-existent problem like the extinction of polar bears.

A $1 contribution would enable me to bring a class action on behalf of everyone who contributed, even though I knew it was a scam, because reasonable reliance is not an element of a statutory misrepresentation claim.

But we don’t live in a civilized state. We live in Wisconsin, which means con artists are immune from the reaches of sec. 100.18, provided they don’t even pretend to offer fair goods for a fair price, but unabashedly sell lies for grossly unearned profits.

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  1. David, given this post, it’s a good thing for you the law doesn’t apply to fraudulent misrepresentations by bloggers. The one thing that might save you is the fact that you make quite clear by the use of the term envirofascist that you do not intend the post to be anything but a blatantly biased opinion piece intent on twisting the facts rather than presenting a thoughtful analysis worthy of serious consideration.

    The fact “that the polar bear population is currently at 20,000 to 25,000 bears, up from as low as 5,000-10,000 bears in the 1950s and 1960s,” which is what your cited authority actually finds, is much more meaningful than your misleading “doubled since 1985” assertion. It is actual numbers rather than relative numbers that has any meaning here, and 20,000 to 25,000 remains a very small number of polar bears across what is left of their entire range. I must admit, though that saying that their population has “doubled” no doubt has an impact on people who don’t care about the actual facts (after all, the same would be true if the polar bear population had increased from two to four during that period).

    The fact that polar bears are moving south now and interacting more with humans likewise is not, as you suggest, evidence against climate change but evidence solidly supporting it. Where natural habitat is destroyed, as by the established damage to the arctic due to climate change, wildlife is forced to move to survive, often bringing them into conflict with humans.

    So yes, there are certainly hucksters and snake oil salesmen galore out there. Luckily for you, they cannot be sued for it.

  2. Envirofascism? So Dave hates those who seek top protect the environment. Global warming is a “myth?” Those who oppose the reality that our planet is being destroyed by burning fossil fuels are often the most strident. How nice that they would risk the only planet we have to be part of a club that also believes the Earth was created 6,000 years ago. I’m not willing to take that risk – no one should.
    Make no mistake, global warming deniers do not believe in science or facts. They believe in fairy tales and think-tanks sponsored by “friends” of the environment like BP.

    There is no fraud. The fraud is on the part of global warming deniers who refuse to see the facts right before them. If I came into Dave’s office and lit up a cigar and smoked it for an hour, how would the air quality be? Pretty bad. But, oh yes, smoking is banned in many places because it’s harmful to others. And yet, these same folk believe that planetary burning of fossil fuels 24/7/365 has no effect on the planet at all. Look at Venus. That is a prime example of global warming run amok.

    This article makes me feel like sending them a dollar.

  3. Hard to waddle through all claims and counter claims by both sides to make an independent decision as to why we are experiencing such wonky weather. I am trying….Mr. Ziemer rings true as a few of these conservation organizations take far too much liberty with research data by presenting it to the public with their own spin to lead us into believing their set agenda of AGW. One of the biggest conservation organizations, Polar Bears International, is quite good at this. One way this organization claims to save polar bears is by planting a few trees in Wisconsin, at best symbolic but altogether a bunch of bunk. PBI is listed as a charitable organization. As far as the “hucksters and snake oil salesman” go the irony is that the president of PBI is a retired marketing executive from one of the biggest whiskey makers in America…yes a snake oil salesman. Another bit of irony is that one of this organization’s biggest corporate sponsor is BP…yes that BP.

  4. Excellent!

    Its about time someone said it…”envirofacist”.

    Given how violent and vicious polar bears are, I think 25,000 is too many polar bears. Think of the poor fish.

    Absolutely right! WI Deceptive Trade Practices Act should apply to for-profit envirofacists pretending to be non-profit!

    Great article!

  5. Mindyour Ownbusiness

    “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.” – Jon Huntsman

  6. Riiiight. Because scientists have never been wrong before. Next time you try and start a fire, go to the store and ask for some phlogiston to start it. When you are designing you kid’s pine wood derby car, be sure you apply Aristotle’s laws of dynamic motion.

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