October 23, 2014

Democrats file lawsuit over training videos

DPW Chairman Mike Tate (Photo: Andrew Beckett)

DPW Chairman Mike Tate (Photo: Andrew Beckett)

The head of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin says the public has the right to know what’s on training videos that feature Republican candidate for attorney general Brad Schimel.

Democrats are suing the state Department of Justice, after the agency refused to release the videos through an open records request. The agency cited concerns about victim privacy and argued that criminals could view them to learn tactics used by prosecutors. During a call with reporters Wednesday, DPW chairman Mike Tate questioned that reasoning, and voiced his belief that the objections are more about “J.B. Van Hollen and Brad Schimel trying to prevent the public from getting a full true picture of who Brad Schimel really is.” Tate believes the videos may contain something objectionable about Schimel that he says Republicans “don’t want the public to see.”

The videos in question come from training events for prosecutors organized by the state DOJ. Schimel, who serves as the Waukesha County District Attorney, participated in five such talks, although the DOJ says it only has videos from two of those events.

In a statement released Wednesday, Schimel offered his rationale for keeping the videos from being released to the public. “During many of my presentations I break down specific real-life cases and explain to my fellow prosecutors how we catch and prosecute those who try to prey on our children. I analyze known patterns of behavior and explain how my fellow prosecutors can exploit the common mistakes these men make. I help my peers become better prosecutors and keep more predators off the streets.”

Schimel also dismissed allegations that the videos show him doing anything improper, arguing that “I would not have been invited back again and again and again,” if that were the case. He also criticized Democrats for filing the lawsuit, accusing them of showing “callous disregard for the safety of Wisconsin’s children” by trying to make law enforcement’s playbook public.

A Dane County judge plans to review the tapes, before deciding whether Democrats should get to see them. A ruling on that could come at a hearing scheduled for next week, just days before an election where Schimel faces Democrat Susan Happ, the Jefferson County District Attorney.

President Obama to campaign for Mary Burke in Milwaukee next Tuesday

President Obama campaigns in Madison in 2012. (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

President Obama campaigns in Madison in 2012. (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke is getting some presidential help on the campaign trail.

The Burke campaign confirmed Wednesday that President Barack Obama will campaign with the Democratic nominee in Milwaukee next Tuesday. A specific time and location for the event have not yet been announced.

The president’s appearance will come just a week before Election Day, as Burke prepares to face incumbent Republican Governor Scott Walker in a close race. The most recent Marquette University Law School poll showed Walker and Burke tied among likely voters, at 47 percent apiece.

Burke has already been joined on the campaign trail twice by First Lady Michelle Obama. Former President Bill Clinton is also scheduled to campaign for her during a rally set for this Friday in Milwaukee.

Wisconsin Assembly Republicans looking to next session (AUDIO)

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester)

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester)

The election is still two weeks away, but Republicans in the state Assembly are already turning their attention to the next Legislative session.

Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and fellow GOP lawmakers outlined their ‘Forward Agenda‘ Tuesday at the Capitol. Vos said “the centerpiece of our agenda is really making sure that we focus on jobs and the economy. We want to create a better climate to grow jobs, we want to train workers for the high demand jobs that we know we are seeing all across Wisconsin, we want to help people find jobs faster so they can get back to work and support their families.”

The plan also calls for targeting public assistance fraud and reducing government regulations and red tape. Vos said “we’ll come back in January, we’re going to have an aggressive agenda ready to go on the floor, working together to try and move Wisconsin forward.”

AUDIO: Speaker Robin Vos on the Forward Agenda (1:01)

In a statement, Assembly Democratic leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) accused Republicans are “doubling down on the same failed agenda that has left Wisconsin dead last in the Midwest in job growth and facing a staggering structural deficit.” Barca added that it “appears Republicans have no intention of prioritizing support for our public schools, ensuring affordable health care coverage or many other important issues that are the building blocks of a strong middle class.”

Timing of latest John Doe records release raises questions

Mary Burke, Scott Walker (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Mary Burke, Scott Walker (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

The Milwaukee County executive’s office released another wave of documents Tuesday, seized during a John Doe investigation that resulted in the convictions of six people tied to Governor Scott Walker when he was in charge of that office. The timing of the release of 16,000 documents from the case is raising questions though, coming just two weeks before Walker faces a tough reelection fight against Democrat Mary Burke.

Walker released a statement Tuesday morning, saying “Clearly, the highly partisan Milwaukee County E​xecutive​, who has given $63,000 to ​my opponent​,​ released four​-​year​-​old emails two weeks before the election to distract voters from​ my opponent’s failed record. This case was closed nearly two years ago. Voters see through the political motives of my opponents to stop our successful reforms​ ​which are moving Wisconsin forward.”

The records released Tuesday are just some of the massive number of documents seized during the John Doe investigation, which was looking into allegations that workers in Walker’s office when he was Milwaukee County executive were doing campaign work on taxpayer time. The governor was never charged with any wrongdoing, but members of his staff and associates were convicted under the probe.

Current Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele’s office said he was not directly involved in the decision to release the records Tuesday, relying on corporation counsel to review and release them instead. Milwaukee County attorney Paul Bargren said in a statement that no outside influences determined when the information was going to be released, noting that “work has been underway full time by a group of four to six reviewers under my supervision since June 30. The material had to be reviewed carefully, and at the same time, there was substantial public interest in the material….As material was ready for release, I chose to make it available rather than hold on to it.”

The release came just hours after Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mary Burke put out a new campaign targeting Walker over the John Doe investigation. Speaking with reporters before casting an in-person absentee ballot Tuesday in Madison, Burke said there were no discussions with the county executive about the release of the documents on the same day. Burke said “the timing wasn’t determined based on that…the timing is about that people, when they go to the polls, need to consider Governor Walker’s entire record.”

Governor Walker says Obama visit could be a ‘liability’ for Mary Burke (AUDIO)

Gov. Scott Walker (WRN file photo)

Gov. Scott Walker (WRN file photo)

Governor Scott Walker has doubts about the benefits a visit to Wisconsin by President Obama would have for his Democratic challenger.

Democrat Mary Burke’s campaign has said they are working having the president campaign for her in Wisconsin during the week before the election, although no date or location have been mentioned yet. Burke has already had First Lady of the U.S. Michelle Obama in the state twice to campaign for her.

During a stop in Weston on Monday, Governor Scott Walker questioned whether a visit by President Obama would help Burke at all, given the polarized opinion many in the state have about the costs of Obamacare and other programs being pushed the Obama administration. Walker said “I think there’s a reason his popularity is way down, and I don’t think it’s going to be a boon for them.”

AUDIO: Gov. Scott Walker responds to possible presidential visit (:42)

As for whether he’s hoping to match the star power of a presidential visit, Walker declined to name any outside help that might join him on the campaign trail. “I believe this election is not about celebrities, it’s about me talking to directly to the voters, and so I’m not looking to match that,” Walker said, adding that “in fact, I think President Obama coming in for my opponent is a liability.”

Burke for Wisconsin communications director Joe Zepecki responded to Walker’s comments in a statement:

“We’re excited to have the President visit before the Election and hope to announce details of his visit soon. Certainly doesn’t surprise us that a career politician desperate to distract from his failure to create the jobs he promised would resort to such silliness. The simple fact is that under Governor Walker, Wisconsin is dead last in the midwest in terms of private sector job creation, has a ballooning $1.8 billion structural deficit and a lagging economy. Governor Walker’s top down approach is not working, it is time for a new direction with Mary Burke.”

WSAU’s Larry Lee contributed to this report.