, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wisconsin Democrats Accuse GOP State Senators Of ‘Pay To Play’ After Leaked Documents Surface

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling Accusing 2 Republican Senators Of Taking Votes As Payback For Funds

Wisconsin State Capitol
JeromeG111 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Wisconsin Democrats are accusing a pair of Republican state senators of “pay to play” following the release of documents that were part of a now-closed John Doe investigation.

A story released Wednesday by The Guardian newspaper included more than 1,000 pages of leaked documents related to the 2012 probe into coordinated fundraising between Gov. Scott Walker’s recall campaign and conservative groups.

The documents reveal $750,000 in donations to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, a conservative political group, from the owner of a company that once made lead for paint.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Club for Growth used some of those funds to support several Republican senators during the 2011 recall elections. Around that same time, Republicans passed laws shielding businesses from lead paint lawsuits.

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, is accusing Republican senators Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, and Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, of taking votes benefiting the lead paint industry as payback after their campaigns received Club for Growth donations.

“I just think it’s very troubling, and it really is the purchase of democracy to the highest bidder and those who have the deepest pockets,” Shilling said. “Children suffering from lead paint exposures were sold out by Senate Republicans to benefit this out of state lead paint manufacturer.”

The lead paint laws, passed in 2011 and 2013, gave immunity to businesses sued by individuals sickened by lead paint.

The 2013 measure was introduced in the middle of the night as part of the 2013-2015 state budget’s “999 motion,” approved by the powerful Joint Finance Committee. Olsen and Harsdorf are both members of the committee, and both voted in favor of the motion.

The 2013 law has since been challenged and overturned in court.

Olsen and Harsdorf are up for reelection this fall. Neither immediately returned a request for comment.

Join the challenge. Goal: 500 gifts before June 27. Join the challenge.