Big spender

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel has spent $83,000 promoting himself and his office. He's running next year for re-election.

Attorney General  has spent about $83,000 on promotional items since January 2015, including messenger bags, pistol cases, candy, custom-made fortune cookies, and coins bearing his and his campaign mantra — “kicking ass every day.”

Most of it was handed out as gifts to attendees at Department of Justice conferences.

The Associated Press obtained invoices for Schimel’s promotional items through an open records request.

“Brad Schimel puts the ‘AG’ in ‘swag.’” said One Wisconsin Now research director Joanna Beilman-Dulin. “Stress balls, coffee mugs, commemorative coins, candy, souvenir flashlights and fortune cookies don’t solve crimes. Yet our state’s top cop Brad Schimel is spending tens of thousands of dollars every year on this and other swag.

“Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, literally thousands of rape kits have gone untested and delays in DNA testing are growing longer on his watch.

“This is about priorities, and Brad Schimel’s are grievously misplaced.”

The Associated Press said it's unclear whether the DOJ's promotional spending is in line with other state agencies. Spokesmen for the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection had no figures immediately available. A spokesman for the Department of Corrections didn't immediately reply to a message.

News of Schimel’s lavish spending on self-promoting swag comes seven months after he gave his spokesman at 17.5-percent raise to $94,000. Up until six months before that raise, Johnny Koremenos, who served as Schimel's 2014 campaign manager, was paid by Schimel’s campaign.

For a year and a half, Koremenos collected paychecks from Schimel’s campaign as well as taxpayers. He stopped after a report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel exposed the double-dealing, which is legal.

Koremenos continues to work for Schimel’s campaign, but he says the work is now on a strictly volunteer basis.

Schimel’s re-election campaign ended the first half of 2017 with nearly $400,000 on hand, according to a campaign finance report. The Associated Press reported that Schimel raised $298,035 during the first six months of this year.

Josh Kaul, son of former Democratic Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, is the only Democrat so far who’s announced plans to take on Schimel, who is extremely popular with both the religious right and conservative think tanks.

Kaul is a Stanford law school graduate and has worked as a federal prosecutor in Baltimore and as an attorney in Washington, D.C

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