MADISON, Wis. — State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf voted for special, retroactive legal immunity from liability in lawsuits over lead paint after newly released documents show she benefitted from spending by a group that received at least $750,000 from the owner of one of the largest manufacturers of lead in paint. Harsdorf’s response when asked by the media about these facts? Silence.
“Sen. Harsdorf may not want to talk about it, but her actions speak volumes,” commented One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. “After benefitting from massive corporate contributions to the group that did her dirty work in her 2011 election she turns around and votes to give the donor special legal immunity from being held accountable for his product that poisoned Wisconsin children.”
New documents from the 2012 John Doe investigation of political corruption involving Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and special interest groups published by The Guardian Wednesday implicate Republican state Senators in advancing the legislative agenda of a major donor to a group that spent heavily in their recall elections.
Evidence gathered by state prosecutors found that Harold Simmons, owner of NL Industries, one of the largest manufacturers in the U.S. of lead used in paint, donated $750,000 to the Wisconsin Club for Growth. That group spent heavily in the 2011 recall elections of key Republican senators, including Sheila Harsdorf.
Harsdorf subsequently voted as a member of the Joint Committee on Finance to insert a last second provision into the 2013 state budget that granted Simmons’ corporation retroactive immunity from legal liability for the poisoning of Wisconsin children with lead produced by his company and used in paint. The motion was the final “999 motion” of the 2013 budget deliberations (see 6b).
In an email providing talking points from Club for Growth Wisconsin head and Gov. Walker campaign consultant R.J. Johnson to Walker for a call to donors, set to be made from the taxpayer funded mansion provided to Walker, the efforts of the Club in the recall elections for key state Senators were detailed. Walker was instructed to note, “We needed to hold four of the six Republican Senators facing recalls last week in order to maintain our conservative majority in the state senate. With your help and against the odds, we beat back the national unions and held our majority …” Specific recall elections efforts of the Club for Growth Wisconsin that Walker was directed to highlight included attacks on the the opponent of Senator Harsdorf.
Ross concluded, “The evidence here paints Sheila Harsdorf as unconscionably corrupt. She voted to shield a corporation from liability that produced a product that literally poisoned children. That there was at least $750,000 in campaign cash changing hands only adds to the sleaze factor.”