Update from DPW-Martha Laning

Welcome to the latest installment of my chair update.

Attorney General Brad Schimel’s Gross Incompetence On Display At Department Of Justice 

The people of Wisconsin should be able to trust the state’s top cop to do their job and explain the progress of the work their doing, but Attorney General Brad Schimel finds that simple expectation too difficult to achieve. 

In January, Schimel claimed that “a few hundred” packages of evidence had been tested, but in reality, just nine packages had been tested at the time. 

Schimel even went so far to deny that a backlog exists- a claim thoroughly debunked by independent fact-checkers.

When asked last week to verify news reports that 60 packages of evidence from the backlog have been tested so far, Schimel put his incompetence on full display saying he didn’t know where the news reports got that number from. The figure was provided to news outlets by Schimel’s own communications office.

Aside from Schimel’s apparent inability to keep up with happenings in his own office, records obtained by One Wisconsin Now revealed Schimel’s Department of Justice spent more than $50,000 in promotional items – including $10,000 on challenge coins branded with the phrase “Kick Ass Every Day.”

After two years in office, Attorney General Schimel has spent more time and resources on promotional items than delivering justice for victims of sexual assault. In fact, the latter doesn’t even seem to be a priority for Schimel. We need an Attorney General focused on delivering justice for survivors of sexual assault. It’s time for real leadership at the Department of Justice.

Candidate Services Spotlight

This week the Candidate Services team announced its spring 2018 elections program, Spring into Action. This program is designed to give County Parties the tools, information, and support they need to effectively organize around municipal elections and to continue building the Democratic bench across the state.

The DPW has created a Spring Elections Blueprint that each county can use to design and execute their own spring elections program. This blueprint will be supplemented by a series of calls in which the Candidate Services team will discuss, and take questions on, targeting seats, recruiting candidates, building teams to support those candidates, and much more.

“We’re really excited to begin working with county parties to proactively recruit candidates for the 2018 spring elections, and assist in the creation of county unique election plans. Last spring we helped elect democrats in all corners of the state, and we’re eager to continue that momentum.” – Sam Voorhees, Candidate Services Director

Special Counsel Appointed To Oversee Russia Investigation

Last week delivered bombshell after bombshell on the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 Presidential election. First, the Washington Post broke a story claiming that President Trump revealed highly classified information when he welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak – a key figure in earlier Russia controversies – into the Oval Office.

Then, the very next day the New York Times broke a huge story claiming that former FBI Director James Comey was asked by President Trump to end the federal investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

Later in the week, the Washington Post reported that more than a month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination for president, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy commented that he thought Trump was being paid by Russian President Vladimir Putin – Speaker Paul Ryan immediately stopped the conversation and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.

The hits kept coming on Friday as the Washington Post reported that the Russia probe has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest and the New York Times reported that President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office that firing James Comey relieved “great pressure” on him.

Amid all the news, the Department of Justice announced the appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to oversee the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The decision highlights the seriousness of the Russia investigation and the urgent need for Republicans in Congress to join Democrats in creating an independent commission to give the American people the answers they deserve.  

I can only hope that Wisconsin Republicans will choose to put their country above their political party and join the call for an independent commission.

Sheriff David Clarke To Department of Homeland Security

Last week, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke announced that he would be leaving his post next month to become an Assistant Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security.

While I’m pleased to see that Milwaukee County will finally get the chance to have a competent Sheriff who cares about the public safety of the county’s residence, make no mistake, Sheriff Clarke has no business working at the Department of Homeland Security.

Clarke is a hot-head who is more concerned with cable news appearances, high-priced speaking engagements, and sucking up to President Trump than he is with doing his job and keeping Milwaukee County safe. Clarke can’t even keep his own jail safe where four people have died since last April – including a newborn child.

Even former Assistant Secretaries at the Department of Homeland Security have publicly said that Sheriff Clarke is unfit for the role – including Juliette Kayyem and Phil McNamara.

As Our State’s Economy Languishes, Democrats Call For A Special Session to Spur New Jobs & Economic Growth

Wisconsin’s hard-working families received more bad economic news last week as we learned that the state’s flagship job agency still isn’t doing its job properly and that for the third straight year Wisconsin ranks dead last in entrepreneurial activity.

A new audit from the Legislative Audit Bureau shows Gov. Scott Walker’s Economic Disaster Corporation (WEDC) is still fraught with chaos and disorder even as Republican Joint Finance Committee members shockingly recently voted to reinstate the WEDC’s lending authority. According to the audit, WEDC still cannot accurately measure how many jobs it has created.

A job creation agency is a fantastic idea, but after three consecutive disturbing audits over 6 years, clearly, the Republicans have shown they need help getting the job done. Governor Walkers flagship job agency isn’t even tracking whether their loans are creating jobs, enough is enough. It’s time for Republicans to partner with Democrats on a real plan to clean up the WEDC mess they created.

I was extremely disappointed to see the state get pegged with a dead last ranking in entrepreneurial activity for the third straight year. Many Wisconsinites want to create the next big thing for ourselves that also would create new jobs for others. But thanks to the failed economic policies of Gov. Scott Walker many people live paycheck to paycheck working unreliable hours, with few or no benefits. We need a governor who understands that launching a new venture requires first making ends meet today and having something left over to launch a new venture tomorrow. Instead of Gov. Walker who prioritizes tax giveaways to the rich while the state economy falls farther and farther behind the rest of the nation.

That’s why I was elated to see Democrats calling for a special session to spur new jobs and economic growth in Wisconsin. It’s time to end the trend of trailing the rest of the country in entrepreneurship and invest in our colleges and universities that create new jobs, ideas, and industries. The way our state is approaching economic growth now is obviously not working it is time for a new approach.

CWA Strike At AT&T

On Friday, more than 40,000  AT&T worker nationwide, including many in Wisconsin, walked off the job after failing to reach a fair union contract with AT&T Mobility. It is the biggest strike in the United States since 40,000 Verizon workers walked off the job last year.

Working women and men have been at the bargaining table for months fighting for good jobs because every worker deserves to earn a fair wage.

I hope that the Communication Workers of America and AT&T are able to come together on a solution that secures good jobs and a better future for hard-working Americans.

Read more about the strike here.

Weekly Democratic radio address: Wisconsin Health Care Protection Package

Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) offered the weekly Democratic radio address last week. The audio file of this week’s address can be found here:  http://media2.legis.wisconsin.gov/multimedia/Sen27/erpenbachradio051817.mp3

A written transcript of the address is below: 

Hi this is State Senator Jon Erpenbach a Democrat from Middleton.
“Access to affordable health care and the opportunities that come with a healthy life are important to our communities.
“But broken promises created by President Trump has caused anxiety in families all across Wisconsin and the nation. We all deserve fair access to health care no matter what happens in Washington DC.
“Governor Walker recently said that he would be open to dropping protections for people with pre-existing conditions, that’s not how we do things in Wisconsin.
“Democrats are not willing to risk the opportunities of a healthy life. That’s why we have introduced the Wisconsin Health Care Protection package.
“Our families deserve the security of knowing their insurance policy will cover them no matter what happens in life.
“Our Wisconsin Health Care Protection would safeguard families from being denied access, or charged more for health insurance because of pre-existing conditions.
“We would help protect Wisconsin families from financial ruin by prohibiting lifetime and annual limits.  And we would keep out-of-pocket health care costs down by requiring preventive services to be continued at no cost.
“We promote community health and economic security by requiring health insurance plans to cover essential health benefits, and to ensure that family planning patients are covered with state reimbursement because we value the health of everyone in all of our communities.
“If Republicans won’t keep their promises to the American people, Wisconsin Democrats WILL. Wisconsin Democrats will stand up for Wisconsin families and work hard to do the right thing.”

Democrats Live

Back in March, the Democratic National Committee began streaming live discussions between Party leaders, elected officials, and activists to give a look at what Democrats are up to in Washington and at state parties around the country, get exclusive updates from Democratic leaders and candidates, and learn how you can get involved to fight back against Trump and elect Democrats across the country.

I hope you’ve been able to catch these episodes live, but if not, don’t worry every episode is posted on https://live.democrats.org/. Our communications team will also continue to send out reminders for Democrats Live shows so you can watch in real time.

Things You May Have Missed But Need To See Now

Vernon County Democratic Party Issue Paper: Redistricting Reform
“In Wisconsin, the 2011 redistricting done in secret by the Republican-controlled Legislature annexed and isolated Democrats into fewer and illogically contorted districts, resulting in state elections skewed towards Republicans due to gerrymandering.”

Statement of Senator Jon Erpenbach on Joint Committee on Finance Democrats motion to provide state funding for free tuition for Wisconsin Technical College students.
“We know that a skilled workforce is what Wisconsin needs to boost our economy and free tuition at our Technical Colleges is a great way to get there. By 2020, nearly 70 percent of all jobs will require some kind of post-secondary training, certificate, or degree. Joint Committee on Finance know the barrier for people seeking to enter the workforce is financial.”

Rep.Crowely: Great Day for Milwaukee, Bad Day for America
“It is a good day for the residents of Milwaukee County but an equally bad day for our nation. Through the efforts of thousands of Milwaukee citizens, local and state officials, and advocacy groups like Voces De La Frontera, Sheriff Clarke faced warranted scrutiny and saw the best way to make Milwaukee great again was to jump ship.”

Rep. Mark Spreitzer, Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, and Sen. Tim Carpenter introduce marriage equality package.
“Wisconsin law must be read in a gender neutral way that recognizes equal rights for all married couples. However, because of Wisconsin’s outdated statutes and constitution, many same-sex couples face continued legal challenges, particularly when seeking parental rights.”

Sens. Erpenbach (D-Middleton), Johnson (D-Milwaukee): Public comment on BadgerCare Reform Demonstration Waiver.
“What you have done is create four new ways to take BadgerCare away from Wisconsin’s low-income residents. Some of these changes are provisions that have not been approved in any other state. This is not an area where Wisconsin should be a leader, this is not the Wisconsin Way.”

Rep. Barca Statement on WEDC Audit
“Walker’s agency is handing out millions of taxpayer dollars without proof that our money is creating jobs or even significantly enhancing the economy. Taxpayers deserve to know that they are getting the biggest bang for their hard-earned bucks.”

JFC Democrats Renew Call to Reopen WEDC Post Audit
“Democrats specifically asked and even moved to keep the agency open in the Joint Finance Committee because of the anticipated Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) WEDC audit. The WEDC audit was released today and recommends direct policies to address deficiencies in the administration of loans, tax credits, and grants by the quasi-public agency.”

Rep. David Bowen calls on Governor Walker not to enforce Voter ID Disenfranchisement law for 2018 elections
“With news reports that as many as 300,000 eligible Wisconsin voters would not have been able to participate in the 2016 Fall election as a result of the Voter ID Disenfranchisement law, Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) called for Governor Walker not to enforce the Republican Voter ID law in 2018 elections, including the Governor’s race.”

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