Chris Abele’s hiring of Graeme Zielinski for “research” raising red flags

MILWAUKEE (WITI) — Graeme Zielinski is the former Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesperson who compared Governor Scott Walker to serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. That comparison – sent out for all the world to see on Twitter, cost Zielinski his job. Now, Zielinski is back in the headlines.

Zielinski may be off the Wisconsin Democratic Party’s payroll, but he is not out of politics. Newly released documents show Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele hired Zielinski — and a conservative group says it is a hire raising all sorts of red flags.

While Zielinski says he remains unemployed, recently released campaign finance reports show he picked up some work last summer. He was hired on by Abele for campaign research, and was paid $10,000.

“We thought it was odd that the modest in temperament and moderate in politics County Executive of Milwaukee would associate himself with that guy,” Brian Fraley with the conservative website “Right Wisconsin” told FOX6 News.

“Odd” not just because of Zielinski’s history – but also because of recent tweets.

“We just shed some light on compiling just a sample of the vast amount of incendiary comments about (Milwaukee County Sheriff David) Clarke in the past,” Fraley said.

In tweet after tweet, Zielinski attacks Clarke – even accusing him of domestic abuse. Clarke – a well-known opponent of County Executive Abele has Right Wisconsin asking readers if the tweets are part of Abele’s paid consulting work.

“No that’s not true.  That is absolutely not true.  It’s a lie,” Zielinski told FOX6 News on Tuesday.

Reached by phone in Madison, Zielinski told FOX6 News the accusations are an attempt at a distraction.

“I did research into policy and I did some work with campaigns, and vetting some candidates for office. Typical office work. But at no time did any of it involve the nut job that is running the Sheriff’s Office,” Zielinski said.

Abele says Zielinski was never paid for anything related to Sheriff Clarke — just typical politics.

“I’ve known Graeme for awhile. He’s a great writer. I was trying to research who is where. Kind of get a lay of the land. And Graeme has a great sense of who is where,” Abele said.

Right Wisconsin says the hire makes them scratch their heads.

“Graeme Zielinski has no experience as a researcher.  He is a mouth piece and a message guy,” Fraley said.

Abele says while Zielinski did a great job, he does not stand by his tweets.

“The work I had him do was not an approval of that style of communication,” Abele said.

Still up for debate is whether the tweets against Sheriff Clarke came during the time Zielinski was hired by Abele.

In reviewing a year of tweets, Sheriff Clarke is a constant target.

Zielinski says his more “controversial tweets” were sent long after his work was done with Abele.

A spokesperson for Sheriff Clarke’s campaign says Zielinski’s tweets border on slander that have no backing whatsoever.

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