MADISON, Wis. — State Senator Luther Olsen was a featured guest today at a fundraiser to benefit the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate (CERS), a campaign committee overseen by the Senate Republican leader Scott Fitzgerald that makes expenditures on behalf of Republican candidates for the Senate. Olsen has been under scrutiny recently for a number of his choices including giving a major donor to a conservative group a special exemption from legal liability in cases involving children harmed by lead in paint, voting to allow millions of dollars to be raided from state homes for armed services veterans, and attending a baking contest instead of touring the troubled Veterans Home at King.
“Was it pork or was it pie on the menu this morning?” asked One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. “We can only wonder what Sen. Olsen put on his plate at the breakfast fundraiser in a room full of special interests and their checkbooks.”
Documents obtained by prosecutors as part of an investigation of alleged illegal coordination between Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and outside groups recently made public by the Guardian reveal that Harold Simmons, owner of NL Industries, one of the largest U.S. manufacturers 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, and, based on meeting agendas, worked with representatives of Sen. Fitzgerald and CERS discussing strategy and the status of Senate campaigns.
Olsen subsequently voted as members 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).
The longtime state legislator has also recently been under fire for his disregard for state armed services veterans. As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Olsen cancelled a tour of a veterans home in his district to eat pie and other sweets as a baking contest judge at a county fair. Meanwhile in the state Senate, he has voted to raid funds from state nursing homes in 2006, 2011 and 2013. His most recent raid vote resulted in $12 million being transferred from the fund for veterans homes and another $18 million planned over the next two years. As a member of the Joint Committee on Finance, Olsen also authored a provision inserted into the 2015 state budget that changed the way County Veterans Service Officers were funded, a move that local officers reported was hurting their efforts to help armed service veterans.
Ross concluded, “Sen. Olsen’s appetite for sweet treats and special favors for big time conservative donors might be delicious and fatten up campaign accounts, but they’re bad choices for the rest of us.”