To whom it may concern:
The Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office is a mess. The current Attorney General, Brad Schimel, has blatantly politicized the office, dropped the ball on his role as the lead crime fighter in Wisconsin, and abdicated the AG’s traditional role as “the people’s lawyer” representing Wisconsin citizens’ interests in criminal and civil matters alike.
We do not make these claims lightly: We are 45 former Assistant Attorneys General with over 900 years of service working under both Republican and Democratic AGs. We served in the Wisconsin Department of Justice, where our primary goal — indeed our only goal — was to serve the people of Wisconsin efficiently, effectively, and in a non-partisan manner in all types of cases, including criminal prosecutions and appeals, environmental enforcement, consumer and antitrust enforcement, among others. After often-vigorous internal debate about the merits of particular cases or enforcement actions, the AGs we were hired by and served under, both Republican and Democratic, would routinely tell us, in effect — “Okay, just do the right thing — Do right by the citizens of Wisconsin.”
“Doing the right thing for Wisconsin” is most emphatically not the operating principle for AG Schimel. Let us count the ways:
• Wisconsin AGs have a critically important duty to manage the state’s criminal justice system, in conducting criminal prosecutions at the trial and especially at the appellate level, and in managing the Crime Lab, the Division of Criminal Investigation, and the Crime Victims’ program. AG Schimel has failed miserably in this regard. For just one example: the time prosecutors have had to wait for test results from the Crime Lab has almost doubled during Schimel’s tenure, in one case allowing a repeat drunk driver to kill a motorist while the prosecutor waited for lab results.
• Under AG Schimel, the Department of Justice tested only nine rape kits in his first two years in office, allowing an unknown number of rapists to remain at large. Now, with the November election approaching, he says that all rape kits have been submitted for testing. An Attorney General, however, should lead from the front, not be dragged along reluctantly when it comes to our criminal justice system.
• AG Schimel joined the effort of former Oklahoma AG (and now disgraced former EPA Director) Scott Pruitt to gut the federal Clean Power Plan, an effort that will allow more burning coal to foul Wisconsin’s air. Then, to exacerbate this assault on Wisconsin’s natural resources, Schimel forced out the respected head of his office’s Environmental Protection Unit (EPU), only to replace him with an attorney who defended corporate home-builders accused of violating environmental standards. Schimel then compounded this assault by gutting the EPU , more than halving it from 10 attorneys to only four. And despite a long-established and well-founded policy of declining to issue a formal Opinion of the Attorney General on any subject involved in pending litigation, in 2016 Schimel issued his only formal opinion on a subject involved in pending litigation in which his office represented one of the parties. The opinion was used to persuade DNR that it lacked authority to monitor and assess the cumulative environmental impact of high capacity wells. Wisconsinites who celebrate our wonderful natural resources should be rightfully appalled by an Attorney General who sells out the environmental legacy that, in the past, has made Wisconsin a leader in environmental protection, which in turn has made Wisconsin a destination for visitors from around the world who have wanted to enjoy the benefits of clean lakes and streams.
• Again and again, Schimel has refused to join other state Attorneys General in protecting Wisconsinites from a range of consumer frauds including student loan rip-offs, deceitful practices by for-profit colleges, and a host of other affronts to Wisconsin consumers.
• Consistent with this indifference to the public good, Schimel has placed ideology first in office operations, hiring and elevating like-minded attorney managers to carry out his political mission. We who served under previous attorneys general, Republicans and Democrats, feel compelled to inform the public how Schimel has damaged the office, including undermining the morale of career staff responsible for the state’s legal work.
• Schimel has abused his position by spending taxpayer money on self-promotional coins and even custom-made fortune cookies (seriously!) and by obtaining for him and his staff expensive first-class travel paid for by a private organization known as a hate group.
Brad Schimel does not merit a second term as Attorney General.
Maureen McGlynn Flanagan
Charles D. Hoornstra
Stephen W. Kleinmaier
Bruce A. Olsen
Diane (Nicks) Sorensen
Christopher G. Wren