Turning a blind eye to political corruption? Waukesha Co. DA Brad Schimel facing accusations

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WAUKESHA (WITI) -- The Waukesha County District Attorney is facing accusations of turning a blind eye to political corruption and quashing a potential investigation, but Brad Schimel says the accusations themselves are politically motivated.

Schimel is running for Attorney General as a Republican, and his Democratic challengers are already turning this into a campaign issue.

It stems from a controversy at the Capitol last January.

In January, state Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) found himself answering questions about a bill that would have cut child welfare payments for one of his wealthy donors.

FOX6's Mike Lowe: "The question is how the bill came to be written.  Was it written by one of your donors?"

"No, we consult with constituents on writing bills.  It's our job," Rep. Kleefisch said.

But drafting notes show Kleefisch donor Michael Eisenga offered line-by-line instructions on how the legislation should be written.

Mike Lowe: "This gentleman gave $3,500 to your campaign, $7,500 to your wife`s campaign, $15,000 to the Walker campaign. It looks like he was able to buy influence -- at least that's the perception."

"He`s a constituent of mine," Rep. Kleefisch said.

"We thought it was pretty sleazy," Scot Ross with One Wisconsin Now said.

The progressive group One Wisconsin Now asked the Waukesha County District Attorney to investigate Kleefisch.

"It reinforces that notion that there's pay-to-play going on in the Walker administration and with the Republican Legislature, and so we asked Mr. Schimel to take a look at this to see if any laws were broken. His response was shocking," Ross said.

Schimel sent an email to the group asking: "Why can't a legislator press for legislation that benefits a person who has contributed to their campaign? Isn't that the essence of representative government?"

"DA Schimel seems to think he's there to serve the interest of donors -- and he's come flat out and said it. The essence of representative government is people buying and selling legislation?" Ross said.

FOX6 Investigator Bryan Polcyn attempted to ask Schimel about the controversy.

Bryan Polcyn: "He wanted me to just ask about the Joe Kleefisch stuff with One Wisconsin Now?"

"Yeah, I can't -- we've really got to..." Schimel said.

A Schimel staffer told FOX6 News they would follow up later.

The follow-up was an email that said: "DA Schimel is unavailable for the rest of the week."

One of his staff members sent written responses saying:

"Pay-to-play politics undermines our Democratic system" and an investigation would be a "political witch hunt."

"He actually accuses us of a witch hunt because we want him to simply do his job and look into this," Ross said.

According to campaign finance records available from Wisconsin Democracy Campaign -- Kleefisch gave $1,000 to Schimel's campaign last year, and Schimel has also donated to Kleefisch's campaign.

6 comments

  • Worley Dervish

    Much worse than turning a blind eye, Schimel is condoning and minimizing the importance of political corruption.

  • Bette

    Are we really surprised, our state is inundated with political corruption, but it is always the little guy who takes the fall, look at Walker and his aides, Walker walks, his aids get convicted.

  • katezmusing

    So not surprised. It’s always been an insider’s game and money has always bought influence. Are we surprised that politicians are corrupt or that they so openly don’t care if we know it?

  • jimspice

    People should also be made aware of how Schimmel gave a slap on the wrist to an attorney who destroyed evidence in the Doe investigation.

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