MADISON, Wis. — Yesterday it was revealed that State Sen. Luther Olsen voted for special, retroactive legal immunity from liability suits over lead paint after he 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. In response to media inquiries, Olsen said it was, “quite a jump” to suggest any impropriety and that it was not pay to play because, “somebody else got some money.”
“Sen. Olsen benefitted from massive contributions from the owner of a business whose product poisoned Wisconsin children to a group that did his dirty work and attacked his opponent in 2011. Then he turned around and voted to give this guy special, retroactive legal immunity from being held liable for what his product did to children,” commented One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. “That he doesn’t see anything wrong with what he’s done and the circumstances is an indictment of his character.”
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 yesterday 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 Luther Olsen.
Olsen 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 Olsen.
Ross concluded, “What’s worse? That under Sen. Olsen’s ‘Luther’s Law’ it’s fine that he voted to give special, retroactive legal immunity from liability to someone who donated $750,000 to the group that attacked his election opponent, or his argument that campaign cash had nothing to do with his willingness to shield from legal liability someone whose product poisoned children?”