October 25, 2014

Impact of Petri snubbing Grothman likely limited

U.S. Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI)

U.S. Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI)

The Republican in the race for the state’s Sixth Congressional District will not get the incumbent’s support, but a political expert says it may not hurt him too badly.

Retiring Congressman Tom Petri (R-WI) told a Fond du Lac newspaper this week that will not be endorsing Sen. Glenn Grothman, after Grothman said at a recent fundraiser he would be “insulted” to be compared to Petri. Lawrence University political science professor Arnold Shober says that, along with Grothman initially challenging Petri to a primary before the long-time incumbent announced his retirement, has clearly created some friction between the two.

Petri went on to complement the Democrat in the race, Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris, saying both candidates are qualified for the seat. Despite the kind words, Shober says that should not be seen as Petri endorsing Harris either. He says it was just an observation from a political moderate, although it could give Harris some “ammunition” against Grothman, allowing him to go the voters and point out that the Republican is not supported by the current office holder. Still, he says it’s by “no means a death knell” for Grothman’s campaign.

Shober says Grothman still has an advantage, because he’s running in a Republican-leaning district.


Wisconsin 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.

Lawmaker wants audit of Walker’s plane use

A state lawmaker wants an audit of the governor’s use of state planes. Representative Melissa Sargent wants an audit of the usage and costs associated with state aircraft by Governor Scott Walker. “Governor Walker’s been using the state plane more in first term than his predecessors,” Sargent said.

The Madison Democrat said Walker used planes for 34 flights under 40 miles, and 275 flights to the Milwaukee area. Sargent has sent a letter to the co-chairs of the Joint Audit Committee requesting that the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau conduct the review

Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick says nearly all of the shorter trips were legs on days during which Walker stopped in multiple locations, and nearly all the flights between Madison and Milwaukee were beginning or returning legs of much larger trips or returning legs. Patrick said Walker feels it’s important to get out of Madison and around Wisconsin to talk with the people of the state, and his schedule reflects that.

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.”

Mary Burke votes early in Madison



Mary Burke cast her vote Tuesday in Wisconsin’s closely contested governor’s race. The Democrat cast her early absentee ballot at the Madison clerk’s office – and there were plenty of media on hand as she did. Burke said she wants to make voters aware of the option. “It is to increase awareness of early voting, that there is that opportunity,” she said. The early voting got underway Monday at clerks offices across the state.

In a race that’s all about turnout, Burke said she’s not overly focused on specific numbers of early votes versus those cast on Election Day November 4th. “I look at the turnout overall by November 4th, and certainly need to have good turnout.” she said.

The race is generating support from big names: First Lady Michelle Obama has campaigned twice for Burke, former President Bill Clinton will be in Milwaukee on Friday, and a visit from President Obama is possible in the week prior to the election. “People wouldn’t be here unless they thought I had great chance of winning,” Burke said.

Burke expects turnout to be greater than in the 2010 race for governor, but probably not as large as in the 2012 recall. Republican Governor Scott Walker – who plans to vote on Election Day – has had only one campaign visit from a big name supporter so far – New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.