Moralist Crusader Nass Familiar With the Legal System

Share

As the one of the state’€™s foremost moral crusaders, Rep. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) is thundering about the need to expel Rep. Jeff Wood (Not an R-Chippewa Falls) from the legislature because of the former-Republican’€™s run-ins with the law related to operating a vehicle while intoxicated. On the most recent charge, Wood has so far only been charged with inattentive driving and his blood-alcohol level was 0.0.

According to a statement from his office, Wood said, ‘€œAs many of you know I have struggled with alcoholism for most of my adult life. This past summer I checked myself into an outpatient drug and alcohol treatment program, which I am still enrolled in. I have been taking medication prescribed to me by my doctor to treat anxiety. Due to recent events I have checked myself into the inpatient AODA program at the VA Hospital in Minneapolis.’€Not good enough for Nass, who responded with a media-luring press release saying he will attempt to have Wood expelled if he doesn’€™t resign.

Nass is known to respond quickly to legislative distractions. He’€™s been an outspoken critic of domestic partner protections and regularly rails against the University of Wisconsin for, I don’€™t know, existing.

(As a note: Nass has been amazingly silent about the ridiculous partnership between UW-Madison, media hound Ken Goldstein and the ultra-conservative and often-wrong Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, whose most prominent editorial voice is the contemptuous right-wing fire-breather Charlie Sykes. Coincidence?)

What’€™s a little surprising is that Nass wouldn’€™t allow the justice system to run its course in terms of Wood’€™s actions. After all Nass knows much about how the wheels of justice grind.

In one instance, Nass went to court in 1993 to argue that the per diem payment we give legislators shouldn’€™t have been counted when calculating what he needed to pay in child support for an out-of-wedlock child he conceived.

As reported by the Associated Press, Nass was trying to reduce the amount of child support he was supposed to pay for his 4-year-old’€¦ and then’€¦ well, in the interest of full disclosure, here’€™s the entire article from July 29, 1993.

COURT: PER DIEM PART OF SALARY, July 29, 1993, Associated Press

An appellate court wants a legislator’s daily expense allowances included in the calculations of the support payments he makes for his 4-year-old daughter.

The allowances or per diems are available to legislators in addition to salary and fringe benefits. Rep. Stephen Nass argues the per diem compensation should not be included because it really does not represent extra income.

”We disagree,” judges of the 2nd District Court of Appeals said Wednesday. ”Since legislators are not required to justify per diem requests by submitting an itemized list of expenses, the per diem cannot be considered strictly as reimbursement for necessary expenses.”

A woman identified in court documents as Kara L.H. wants a court-ordered increase in the child support paid by Nass, R-Whitewater.

The daughter, Ashleigh, was born Oct. 28, 1988. Nass requested visitation rights and was declared the girl’s father Sept. 30, 1991, court records said.

A Circuit Court judge in Port Washington ordered Nass to pay $ 565 a month for future child support, $ 12,000 for past support, $ 2,046 for past medical expenses, and $ 2,000 toward the mother’s lawyer fees.

The mother said Nass, 40, could afford more. As a legislator, he earns $ 35,070 a year and also has income as a member of the Wisconsin Air National Guard.

The mother was also a member of the Air National Guard. Both served in the Middle East during the Persian Gulf War, said Brian Schimming, Assembly Republican caucus director said.

”Steve is trying to do the right thing in all of this,” Schimming said. ”He came forward to establish paternity so he could have visitation rights.”

The appellate court overturned the support payments that Circuit Judge Walter Swietlik had directed Nass to make.

In sending the case back to Circuit Court, the appellate judges said per diem expenses should be included in calculations of Nass’ gross income.

Nass said he applied only for $ 55 per day instead of the maximum $73. That shows the per diems did not exceed his expenses so did not provide him with extra income, he said.

The appellate court also said Swietlik should not have reduced the back support Nass owed. Nass paid virtually no support until the time he was legally named the child’s father in 1991 when Ashleigh was nearly 3, the court said.

Swietlik determined back support of $13,464 was appropriate and applied the guideline percentage to Stephen’s gross income retroactively in reaching the figure.

He said that because Nass initiated the paternity petition despite a substantial economic burden and a lack of contact with the child for 2 1/2 years, he lowered back support to $ 12,000.

The appellate judges agreed with the idea of ”encouraging fathers to come forward voluntarily and accept parental responsibility.”

But the ”Legislature has not deemed that such action warrants a financial discount when determining child support,” they decided.

Gripping read. But it’s not the last question about Nass’s interpretation of per diem. More coming…

# # #

Scot Ross served as Executive Director of One Wisconsin Now & the Institute from 2007 to 2019.