Democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Flynn pocketed millions of dollars serving as chief counsel for the Milwaukee Archdiocese during the height of the Roman Catholic Church’s sex-abuse scandal. Among the many roles he played for the church was seeking to discredit and scare off victims while devising legal strategies to avoid paying them settlements.
He successfully deterred both church and criminal investigations into reports of priests raping and sexually assaulting minors, and he failed to notify authorities when known child rapists joined their communities. Although he was responsible for maintaining the master list of known abusers, he didn’t keep track of their whereabouts. He recently acknowledged as much.
Only a handful of abusive archdiocesan priests were charged with a crime or saw the inside of a jail cell. While former USA Gymnastics physician Dr. Larry Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in prison, dozens of Milwaukee priests — who raped and assaulted many times more children than Nassar — simply lost their jobs. They even kept their pensions and health insurance.
For years, Flynn has insisted he did nothing out of the ordinary while serving the archdiocese. But legal documents released in 2014 incontrovertibly refute his claims of rectitude.
Given Flynn’s deep involvement in these outcomes, he lacks the credibility and moral standing necessary to be a viable gubernatorial candidate.
Flynn needs to end his candidacy — now.
His complicity in the abuse crisis should be disqualifying on its face, but Flynn also has no rousing argument to offer for running. He’s lost each of the four races for public office he’s mounted in the past. He’s a 71-year-old, rich, white attorney with nothing new to offer. He’s not riding the wave of a recent accomplishment or positive publicity. He brings no new perspective and lacks an original, dynamic platform.
In addition, Flynn’s campaign is as tone deaf as it is insupportable.
When Flynn was approached earlier this month on camera by Sarah Pearson, co-chair of Wisconsin Women’s March, he denied specific accusations even as she tried in vain to show him images of depositions confirming them. That oft-shared video alone would sink his campaign against Scott Walker.
His campaign manager, Glendale Mayor Bryan Kennedy, exacerbated the situation by denouncing Pearson, a rising star in the state’s women’s movement. Flynn followed up with a message to his skeptics, including the hundreds of sex-abuse victims and the families and friends who have lived through the repercussions of their assaults: “Jump in the lake.”
Women’s March Wisconsin and the Wisconsin and Madison Chapters of NOW have called on Flynn to exit the race. We join that call and urge other groups and individuals to quickly follow suit. His lingering presence in the race will only make it harder for the eventual nominee to defeat Scott Walker.
But the onus is primarily on the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s to persuade Flynn to end his candidacy. Outrage over sexual abuse has never been more at the forefront than it is during this election cycle. Democratic leaders so far have held the moral high ground over Republicans in being quick to oust perpetrators from their ranks. If the Democratic Party of Wisconsin does not rid itself of perpetrator-shield Flynn quickly, it will fail its members both morally and politically.
It’s time for Flynn to wave good-bye, and progressives can only hope the public has forgotten about him come November.