April 24, 2014

Ellis not seeking re-election (AUDIO)

Ellis on hidden video

Ellis on hidden video

A high-profile senator decides not to run for office again in November.

Republican Senate President Mike Ellis tells WHBY in Appleton he will not seek re-election following release of a secretly-recorded video, saying he just doesn’t “fit in” anymore in the current political world because “this is a different era we live in.”

AUDIO: Ellis talks exclusively to WHBY’s Mike Kemmeter, saying this type of secret recording is part of “the new norm” in “gotcha politics.” 1:21

In the controversial recording, which was recorded two weeks ago at a Madison bar right across from the state Capitol building,  the long time lawmaker discusses an illegal campaign scheme.

In explaining his decision, Ellis tells WHBY the atmosphere surrounding the Capitol has changed over the last six or seven years. He says he should be able to go out for a fish fry with his wife without having to look over their shoulders to see whether someone is using a cell phone to record their every move.

The 73-year-old Neenah Republican was first elected to the state Assembly in 1970, he was elected to the Senate in 1982.

The decision to not run for office again comes two days after the video was released by Project Veritas, which is a national organization led by conservative activist James O’Keefe. Ellis is confident that if he chose to seek another term, he would win the election. He says it’s hard to leave something you love and have more to give. “I can now appreciate Brett Favre’s on again, off again retirement saga.”

In the video recorded on hidden camera, Ellis talks about creating a political action committee (PAC) for the sole purpose of spending a lot of money to attack his Democratic opponent state Representative Penny Bernard Schaber (D-Appleton). This so-called super PAC would allow Ellis to publicly separate himself from the attack ads. He later told media that upon realizing his scheme was illegal, he drop the idea. Bernard-Schaber would have been Ellis’ first election challenger in 16 years.

Governor Walker says he’s confident the GOP will find a quality candidate to replace Senator Mike Ellis in the race for the 19th Senate district seat. Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson is calling for the removal of Ellis as Senate president.

In a statement, Ellis says his wife Sandy can’t go to the grocery story, gas station, or restaurant without having a camera shoved in her face.

AUDIO: More raw tape with Ellis 2:54

Thanks to WHBY’s Mike Kemmeter

Ellis downplays secret recording discussing illegal campaign activity

Ellis on hidden video

Ellis on hidden video

A state lawmaker is downplaying a secret recording that shows him discussing possible illegal campaign activity. The recording posted online by a conservative activist shows Republican Senator Mike Ellis of Neenah talking about forming his own Super PAC with some of his donors. That money would be used to attack his challenger – his first in 16 years – Democratic Representative Penny Bernard Schaber of Appleton.

Ellis says the conversation was about counteracting third party attack groups. “At the time I did it I was thinking ‘how do you get around not owing the special interest groups?’ Having said that, I said ‘well you can get four or five people, mention some names, have them create a group then you won’t owe these interest groups anything,’” he says, “I immediately realized you can’t do that.”

Wisconsin law bans coordination between a candidate and third-party group. Ellis says he never acted on the idea and he realizes the video looks terrible, but maintains that he didn’t break any laws.

AUDIO: The recording took place at a Madison hotel bar. Ellis says the comments were part of a larger discussion about how to counteract third party special interest groups.

Rick Schuh, WHBY

The Masters moves on without Tiger

The 2014 Masters opens play at Augusta National on Thursday without

Steve Stricker

Steve Stricker

world number-1 Tiger Woods.

Woods first played at the Masters back in 1995 and has been a huge ratings draw ever since.  He’s won four green jackets and finished in the top 10 nine other times.

But Woods won’t be at Augusta this week after undergoing back surgery.  Some claim that there’s so much young talent on the PGA Tour now that golf can get along if Tiger Woods isn’t around.  Others feel there’s a big void without golf’s biggest name.  Among them is Madison’s Steve Stricker who has drawn close to Woods, with the two playing several Ryder Cup events together.

AUDIO: Steve Stricker on not having Tiger around :20

It wasn’t long after Woods revealed that he would miss the Masters, that resale ticket prices dropped significantly.  Stubhub saw a decrease of up to 25% for many of its tickets. [Read more...]

Walker signs anti-heroin bills

Nygren watches as Governor Walker signs heroin bills into law (PHOTO: Governor's office)

Nygren watches as Governor Walker signs heroin bills into law (PHOTO: Governor’s office)

Governor Walker tours the state Monday to sign the anti-heroin bills into law and draw attention to the heroin problem.

State Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette) is the author of the package of bills aimed at reducing heroin-related deaths in Wisconsin. The Marinette Republican says, as a legislator, he’s thrilled to see his legislation become law. As a parent and a resident of northeastern Wisconsin — which has been hit hard by heroin abuse — Nygren says he’s hopeful the legislation will prove to be successful.

“We realize that none of them are the silver bullet that’s going to make all these problems go away, but I do believe — and I hear from the advocates on a regular basis — they will make a difference.” One former addict and current advocate calls the package of bills a “light at the end of the tunnel” for folks dealing with Heroin.

Nygren drafted the legislation to help those battling heroin and opiate addictions — his own daughter among them. He managed to turn a tragedy into something positive. Nygren gives credit to his daughter, Cassie, for allowing him to use her story.

Wisconsin has a seen a growing trend of heroin abuse in all corners of the state, according to the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Nygren says the biggest side effect of this legislation is bringing awareness and understanding to the significance of the heroin problem in our state.

The legislation moved quickly through the Capitol. Nygren says that’s because his colleagues realized this is an issue affecting many people in the state.

“And because of that, legislators on both sides of the aisle stepped up and were supportive. All seven bills passed unanimously. Not one negative vote in committee or on the floor … it’s a testament to my colleagues and them having a good understanding of what’s going on in their communities, as well, that made it possible to get it done so quickly.”

One of the bills allows EMTs to administer the antidote drug Narcan to those who overdose, and a Good Samaritan bill provides immunity for anyone reporting overdoses to 911. Nygren says he’ll continue to look for more ideas that can help fight the opiate battle.

The governor stops in Marinette, Stevens Point, Eau Claire, and Milwaukee to bring awareness to the bills.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:34

Badgers fall to Kentucky on late three

Kentucky freshman guard Aaron Harrison has been there before.  He nailed a last second three-point basket in the Elite 8

AT&T Stadium

AT&T Stadium

matchup against Michigan to give the Wildcats a 75-72 win over the Wolverines.  Saturday night, Harrison did it again, this time with Kentucky trailing Wisconsin by two points.  His three gave the Wildcats a 1-point lead with 5.7 seconds left to play and an eventual 74-73 victory over the Badgers and a spot in Monday night’s championship game against Connecticut.

The Badgers had a chance to win it after a timeout.  The inbound pass went to Traevon Jackson who rushed up court and got a shot off from about 17 feet on the left-wing.  It was just off the mark and sent the Wildcats into celebration mode.

For the Badgers (30-8), their dream of an NCAA Championship was gone.  They struggled stopping Kentucky when the Wildcats took the ball to the basket.  They gave up penetration and then second chances.  Yet Wisconsin was right in the thick of things.

Wisconsin led much of the way, thanks to near perfect free throw shooting (19-20) and the solid bench contributions from freshman Bronson Koenig  (11 pts) and junior forward Duje Dukan (8 pts).

Koenig’s play was especially big when Traevon Jackson picked up his second foul with nearly 12-minutes left in the first half.  Koenig played the rest of the first half and more than held his own against the high-flying Kentucky Wildcats.

James Young scored 17 points and Julius Randle 16 for Kentucky (29-10).  Sam Dekker and Ben Brust had 15 points each to lead the Badgers.

Junior forward Frank Kaminsky was held to two points in the first half, but the rest of the Badger rotation picked up the slack.  Wisconsin took a 40-36 lead into the locker room at halftime.  After Sam Dekker opened the second half with a three-pointer to give the Badgers a 43-36 lead, Kentucky went on a 15-0 run.  It was literally the only point in the game where Kentucky’s bigger, stronger interior players looked as if they would take over and not give in.

But the Badgers answered with a 15-4 run of their own, led by the play of Duje Dukan.

Wisconsin had a couple of costly turnovers down the stretch and it may have prevented them from being the team getting ready to face U-Conn on Monday night.  But Wisconsin’s run will still be one that will be remembered.  And with Ben Brust being the only significant contributor that will depart because of graduation, Badger fans are already looking forward to seeing what Bo Ryan and company can do next season.  The future certainly looks bright.