Tag Archives: Brad Schimel

Walker climbs over corpses of mass shooting victims to grab a little attention

Scott Walker has squandered hundreds of hours along with untold sums of money and other state resources pursuing futile legal battles against the White House. With much fanfare, he’s joined in unwinnable cases against same-sex marriage and Obamacare, as well as lawsuits over executive orders on immigration and EPA regulations.

Undaunted by his failure to achieve any measure of success in those legal battles, Walker now wants to drag state taxpayers into a legal fray to thwart the president’s minor executive orders aimed at curbing the nation’s off-the-charts level of gun violence. In fact, Walker was apparently first out of the gate on this one, asking Attorney General Brad Schimel to review the plan as soon as it’s released and take any and all legal measures to challenge it.

Other states have joined one or more of the anti-Obama lawsuits. But, “I think Wisconsin is probably one of a select few states that has joined every single one of these lawsuits against the Obama administration,” said Scot Ross, executive director of the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now. 

The governor’s grandstanding made sense when he fancied himself a presidential contender, but it’s hard to understand this latest attention-grabbing gambit. There’s no demand for such action coming from the voters. The state was more or less evenly divided on gun control the last time the Wisconsin Professional Police Association conducted a survey on the issue in 2013 (there will be another  survey later this year).

Republicans ridiculed Obama for shedding tears while announcing his gun control plan. They’re so hardened by political money that they fail to realize it’s their mechanical, self-serving reaction to the nation’s 372 mass shootings last year alone that deserves scorn. We can’t recall a single instance in which Walker has expressed sorrow or empathy for the hundreds of innocent bystanders slain while he’s raked in the dough from gun manufacturers and the NRA.

In contrast, Walker has shown a lot of compassion for law-abiding citizens who might be inconvenienced by background checks. He’s signed several Republican-backed laws relaxing firearm regulations in Wisconsin — two of them last June just after a racist gunman shot nine African-Americans attending Bible study in a South Carolina church.

Our state might rank toward the bottom on income growth and job losses, but thanks to Walker and state Republicans it’s risen to No. 25 on Guns & Ammo’s “best states for gun owners 2015.”

Obama’s proposals were so modest that filing a lawsuit against them is ridiculous. The president seeks primarily to step up enforcement of laws already on the books in order to curb the unregulated buying and selling of weapons at gun shows and flea markets, as well as over the Internet. Licensed gun dealers would not be affected.

Obama’s plan includes hiring 230 FBI staffers to improve and expedite background checks. He also said that he’ll seek funding for an additional 200 agents and investigators in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and that he’ll ask Congress for $500 million to improve mental health services.

Congressional Republicans quickly scoffed at the notion they’d fulfill his requests. The NRA spent nearly $30 million, the vast majority of it on Republicans, in 2014 to ensure our nation will never adopt meaningful gun control.

Ever since the Obama took office, right-wing conspiracy spinners have warned that he’d take away citizens’ guns and establish some sort of liberal dictatorship (an oxymoron if there ever was one). Of course, that hasn’t happened.

But now, after a year of seemingly ceaseless mass shootings, the president has finally stepped forward over congressional refusal to consider the problem, and the NRA and their Republican puppets are reacting as if the wing nuts’ delusions have come true.

And leave it to Walker to climb on top of all the slaughtered innocents and exploit the situation.

Appeals court: Wisconsin abortion law is unconstitutional

In a ruling that Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin called “an important victory for Wisconsin women,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit yesterday rejected a Wisconsin law requiring abortion providers to get admitting privileges at nearby hospitals is unconstitutional.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel’s 2–1 decision doesn’t put the question to rest. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed earlier this month to hear a challenge to a similar Texas law in a case that could settle the issue nationally.

The Wisconsin case centers on a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services. The groups argue that the 2013 Republican-backed law amounts to an unconstitutional restriction on abortion.

The law’s supporters counter it ensures continuity of care if a woman developed complications from an abortion and needed to be hospitalized. But the lawsuit said the statute would force AMS’s clinic in Milwaukee to close because its doctors couldn’t get admitting privileges. That in turn would lead to longer waits at Planned Parenthood clinics. Therefore, the lawsuit maintained, the law amounts to an illegal restriction on abortions.

U.S. District Judge William Conley sided with the abortion providers in March, saying the law served no legitimate health interest. The Wisconsin Department of Justice later appealed to the 7th Circuit.

Writing for the 7th Circuit majority, Judge Richard Posner called the contention that the law would protect women’s health “nonexistent.” He said the law would put more women in danger by increasing the waiting times for abortions, which could push some procedures into the second trimester.

“What makes no sense is to abridge the constitutional right to abortion on the basis of spurious contentions regarding women’s health — and the abridgement challenged in this case would actually endanger women’s health,” he wrote.

Posner added that the law was obviously designed to close down abortion clinics, had nothing to do with women’s health and was a “clear flouting of Roe vs. Wade.”

He also said that a woman who experiences complications from an abortion will go to the nearest hospital, which will treat her regardless of whether her abortion doctor has admitting privileges there.

The medical community agrees that requiring admitting privileges does not increase patient safety, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin said in a statement to the press. Legal abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States (and) admitting privileges do not hasten a patient’s care and are not required for any other medical procedure in Wisconsin, the group added.

The Wisconsin Medical Society joined the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association in a friend of the court brief explaining why admitting privileges do not enhance patient safety. The Wisconsin Hospital Association, the Wisconsin Public Health Association, the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, the Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards, and the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health all oppose Wisconsin’s admitting privileges statute.

“At Planned Parenthood, our top priority is patient safety. As the court affirmed, this law does nothing to enhance the health and safety of patients,” said Teri Huyck, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. “The intention of this law was to put obstacles in the path of women seeking safe, legal abortion care in Wisconsin.”

In his ruling, Posner noted that the law required providers to obtain privileges within two days of Gov. Scott Walker signing it, even though the process typically takes months. If Conley hadn’t imposed a preliminary injunction, AMS’ Milwaukee clinic as well as Planned Parenthood’s Appleton facility would have had to close immediately because providers at both facilities lacked privileges without

“The legislature’s intention to impose the two-day deadline … is difficult to explain save as a method of preventing abortions that women have a constitutional right to obtain,” Posner wrote.

Judge David Manion was the lone dissenter, saying the law protects women’s health and doesn’t amount to an undue constitutional burden.

Eleven states have imposed similar admitting privilege requirements on abortion providers; courts have blocked the requirements in six states, including Wisconsin, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports legal access to abortion.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice, run by Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel, defended the law.

GOP lawmaker addresses heroin addiction in Wisconsin in response to daughter’s struggle

A Republican lawmaker whose daughter has struggled with heroin addiction announced Tuesday he plans to introduce another round of legislation focusing on opiate prescriptions that can lead to heroin abuse.

Rep. John Nygren of Marinette spearheaded seven bills designed to curtail heroin abuse and help addicts recover last session. He told reporters during a news conference Tuesday he has four more bills ready to go. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, Dr. Tim Westlake, vice chairman of the state Medical Examining Board and a member of the state’s controlled substance board, and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel all stood with Nygren in a show of support.

Nygren said the new bills are designed to attack the root of the problem — addictions to opiate prescriptions that pave the path to heroin.

“As we said last session, there were no silver bullets contained in those seven pieces of legislation,” Nygren said. “We knew that we had more that needed to be done.”

The new legislation would require anyone who dispenses opiates to enter the prescriptions in a statewide tracking database within 24 hours rather than the seven days currently allowed under state law. Doctors would be required to check the database before prescribing opiates. Nygren said those moves could help identify addicts and doctors who are overprescribing.

Police who discover an opiate prescription at the scene of an overdose would have to enter the prescription in the database and notify the prescribing physician of the incident.

The package also would create registries for pain and methadone clinics. Nygren said little is known about how such clinics operate.

Nygren’s daughter Cassie has battled a heroin addiction for several years. She was sentenced to a year and a half in prison in 2009. She pleaded guilty this past March to felony narcotic possession and was sentenced to drug court.

Nygren has often cited her story in his push to advance anti-heroin legislation. His bills last session included measures that funded additional treatment facilities; established immediate punishments for parole and probation violators and immunity for anyone who reports an overdose; and allowed first-responders with training to administer Narcan, a drug that counteracts heroin overdoses. Gov. Scott Walker signed the proposals into law last spring after all seven bills passed the Assembly and Senate unanimously.

Myranda Tanck, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Fitzgerald hasn’t discussed the new bills specifically with his caucus but supports efforts “to fight narcotic abuse in Wisconsin.”

Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-Hudson, appeared at the news conference to support Nygren, calling the bills “common sense reforms.” Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, who co-chairs the Legislature’s powerful budget committee with Nygren, issued a statement saying she stands with him, too.

A Walker spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Nygren’s bills.

Nygren said he still wants to address a shortage of treatment beds, detoxification centers that won’t accept active drug users and help recovering addicts stay sober and remain employed. He didn’t offer any details.

After blistering criticism, Wisconsin’s GOP lawmakers backtrack on effort to gut open records law

Reacting to an avalanche of outrage from conservatives and progressives alike, Gov. Scott Walker and his GOP legislative leaders have had a sudden change of heart and agreed to remove from the proposed state budget a measure that would have all but eliminated the state’s open records laws.

The law would have made secret from the public everything created by state and local government officials, including drafts of legislation and communications with staff.

“Gov. Walker and his office are trying to muzzle all the watchdogs in this state,” said Brendan Fischer, general counsel for the Center for Media and Democracy, in response to the proposal, which was tucked into the budget by Republican leaders without prior notice, much less debate. Republicans have refused to identify who’s behind the effort.

Even Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel blasted his colleagues over the attack on open records. Schimel said “transparency is the cornerstone of democracy and the provisions in the budget bill limiting access to public records move Wisconsin in the wrong direction.”

Schimel has gone in the opposite direction, helping to shore up government transparency by launching the Office of Open Government in June, which is designed to makde government records more easily accessible to the public.

All states have some form of open records laws, although they vary in strength and enforcement mechanisms.

Wisconsin’s open records law has become a thorn in the side of Walker, who’s announcing a bid for the Republican presidential nomination on July 13. Some of his critics have speculated that he wants to shield his record from the eyes of reporters and opposition researchers as his presidential campaign gets underway.

For instance, among the issues that have dogged Walker recently is the failure of a job creation agency he created and chaired. Using the state’s open records law, the Wisconsin State Journal discovered that the agency — the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation — made a loan to one of Walker’s top donors.

That report led other media organizations, including The Associated Press, to look into the matter, and the agency also came under scrutiny from the Legislature.

Republicans’ attempt to cripple the open records law comes fast on the heels of their attempt last month to get rid of the Legislative Audit Bureau, a bipartisan agency that has provided citizens and lawmakers alike with honest, reliable investigations of waste, fraud, abuse, inefficiencies and cronyism in state government since 1966.

After bipartisan outrage, Republicans also dropped that proposal from the budget.

Walker told reporters before an Independence Day parade in of Wauwatosa yesterday morning that he planned to discuss the open records issue with legislative leaders after the weekend, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

“My hope is, that after talking with them on Monday, we get to the point where it’s either out completely or there’s significant changes to it,” he said.

But they didn’t wait until Monday. Later that same day, Walker suddenly shifted course and announced the decision to drop the open records proposal in a joint statement with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, and the co-chairs of the joint budget committee.

“After substantive discussion over the last day, we have agreed that the provisions relating to any changes in the state’s open records law will be removed from the budget in its entirety,” the statement said. “… The intended policy goal of these changes was to provide a reasonable solution to protect constituents’ privacy and to encourage a deliberative process between elected officials and their staff in developing policy. It was never intended to inhibit transparent government in any way.”

Walker didn’t specifically say in Wauwatosa whether he and his office were involved in crafting the proposed changes, whether he objected to them in advance, or specifically say who proposed the overhaul. The joint statement didn’t address those points either.

Progressive Susan Happ and right-wing Republican Brad Schimel battle to become Wisconsin Attorney General

This year’s race for attorney general is one of the closest and fiercest in years, with Democrat Susan Happ and Republican Brad Schimel both accusing each other of being soft on crime and sex offenders as they try to replace outgoing GOP incumbent J.B. Van Hollen.

Both candidates are prosecutors, with Happ serving as district attorney in rural Jefferson County and Schimel holding the same post in Waukesha County, just outside Milwaukee.

Happ started off by painting herself as a citizen advocate, saying she wouldn’t defend GOP-authored laws that she thinks are unconstitutional, including measures banning gay marriage, requiring voters to show photo identification and mandating abortion providers obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Schimel, meanwhile, amassed dozens of endorsements from law enforcement officials.

Both explained that they don’t support criminalizing first-time drunken driving because they aren’t convinced it would do any good. And they each think the best way to reduce heroin use is by focusing on treatment, prevention and education.

But the race’s moderate tone crumbled in late September after Schimel and his allies, faced with polls showing Happ in the lead, decided to go on the attack.

They accused Happ of letting a child molestation suspect who bought her house off with a deferred prosecution. Schimel’s camp also charged that Happ lied to the public when she said during a debate that the case didn’t come to her office until after the sale was complete. It actually came in two months before the deed was transferred.

Happ insisted that she recused herself from the case and let an assistant handle it. She said she misspoke on the dates because she wasn’t involved in the matter. The state Office of Lawyer Regulation gave her a boost when it refused to investigate, concluding she properly recused herself.

Schimel also branded Happ a liberal activist because of her opposition to the gay marriage ban, voter ID and the hospital admitting privileges requirement, saying she’ll pursue a partisan agenda if she becomes attorney general. Schimel’s spokesman said Schimel, in contrast, is committed to the rule of law.

Happ punched back, calling Schimel a robot because he believes it’s his job to defend every state law regardless of its constitutionality. Schimel made waves in September when he told an interviewer that he would have been obligated to defend interracial marriage bans if he were attorney general in a state that prohibited such unions in the 1950s.

Her campaign also has seized on a remark Schimel made during the debate that he wasn’t sure if he would defend a law barring coordination between outside political interest groups and candidates.

The law is at the heart of a secret investigation into whether Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign illegally coordinated with conservative groups; Happ’s campaign says Schimel’s hesitation on the validity of a law that could hurt Walker runs counter to his stated philosophy that he must defend all state laws. Schimel has since said he would defend the law.

Happ’s campaign spokesman, Josh Lease, said Happ has tried to focus on the issues but Schimel has resorted to name-calling.

“The voters,” he said, “deserve better.”

Recent polls indicate the race is a dead heat. The election is set for Nov. 4.

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Citing higher crime due to Walker’s cuts, Wisconsin’s largest police union backs Burke

Wisconsin’s largest police union has endorsed Democrat Mary Burke for governor and Republican Brad Schimel for attorney general.

The Wisconsin Professional Police Association announced the endorsements this week.

WPPA executive director Jim Palmer said the group is backing Burke because Republican Gov. Scott Walker cut local government aid and that hurt police departments’ ability to fight crime.

Palmer cites FBI data showing an increase in violent crime over the past four years to back up the claim that Wisconsin is less safe under Walker.

The governor on Thursday announced that the Wisconsin Troopers Association was endorsing him.

Palmer says the WPPA picked Schimel over Democrat Susan Happ because his experience and leadership are “second to none.”

Schimel is Waukesha County district attorney and Happ is Jefferson County district attorney.

5 things to know about Wisconsin’s mid-term elections

 Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke are running neck-and-neck in recent polls, but close contests are nothing new for Walker, who survived a recall election just two years ago. Walker has been plagued with constant scandals, revelations of massive croynism, missing money from his flagship “job creation” agency and his failure to reach even half of the 250,000 jobs he pledged to create during his first term. Meanwhile, groups backed by the Koch brothers are spending millions of dollars in advertising designed to tarnish Burke’s image, putting her at a distinct disadvantage in a political landscape where money wins races.

With Election Day just two months away, here are five things to know about the races on November’s ballot:


Walker and Burke have agreed to two televised debates, neither of them in the state capital where Burke lives and Walker spends most of his time. They will meet Oct. 10 in the La Crosse-Eau Claire television market and Oct. 17 in the Milwaukee market. Both debates are sponsored by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation Board. Specific times and locations have yet to be announced.


Expect another election season in which outside groups spend more than the candidates. The Republican Governors Association is backing Walker, with an anticipated $2 million television ad buy expected to begin in September. Meanwhile, the Greater Wisconsin Committee is airing television ads attacking Walker, and Emily’s List, which works to elect Democratic women, also is expected to spend heavily on her behalf. Walker’s 2012 recall election was the most expensive race in state history, costing $81 million.


With two motorcycle-riding prosecutors running against each other, the attorney general’s race is one to watch. A poll released Wednesday by the Marquette University Law School puts Democrat Susan Happ ahead of Republican Brad Schimel by 7 percentage points. But that’s within the 3.5 percent margin of error, and one-fourth of registered voters don’t know who either of the candidates is. Plus, Happ ran TV ads in the three-way Democratic primary, while Schimel was not on the air and ran unopposed. Happ is the district attorney in Jefferson County; Schimel holds the same post in Waukesha County.


Democrats are unlikely to regain control of the Assembly, where Republicans have an overwhelming majority. But the Senate is a different story. The GOP holds a slim 17-15 majority, with seven seats open, including four held by Republicans. Three of those races look competitive. If Democrats can hold their current seats and pick up those three GOP districts, they’ll take back the chamber.


Incumbents are likely to return to Congress in seven of Wisconsin’s eight districts. But U.S. Rep. Tom Petri’s retirement ensures at least one fresh face will be heading to Washington. State Sen. Glenn Grothman is the favorite after winning a hard-fought, four-way primary to capture the GOP nomination in the Republican-leaning district. The outspoken and uncompromising Grothman faces Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris, a fiscally conservative Democrat who could have some crossover appeal in a district accustomed to the moderate Petri.

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