Sen. Luther Olsen’s Lead Paint Gang Rides Again

Gov. Walker and Senate GOP Leader Fitzgerald to Headline Luther Olsen Campaign Fundraiser

MADISON, Wis. — A group that worked with Gov. Scott Walker and to help elect Republican state Senators, including Luther Olsen, received $750,000 in campaign contributions from one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of lead in paint. Senate Republican Leader Scott Fitzgerald worked with the company’s lobbyist to craft language giving the company special, retroactive immunity from legal liability for their product that poisoned children. And Luther Olsen, as member of the budget writing Joint Committee on Finance, voted for the measure in a late night budget amendment. And the gang is getting back together on the eve of the election with Walker and Fitzgerald as featured guests at a November 1 campaign fundraiser for Luther Olsen.

One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross commented, “When this gang gets together, it’s party time for special interests. As Republicans make their last stand to try to keep Olsen in the state Senate we can only wonder what sleazy deals Walker, Fitzgerald and Olsen are cooking up to raise campaign cash.”

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. A top consultant to Gov. Walker’s campaign also ran the Wisconsin Club for Growth and Gov. Walker raised huge contributions for the group.

The Senate Republican leader, Scott Fitzgerald, worked closely with the lobbyist for NL Industries to devise a measure to grant the company special, retroactive immunity from lawsuits over children being poisoned by lead paint.

Olsen as a member of the Joint Committee on Finance, subsequently voted to insert Fitzgerald’s last-second provision into the 2013 state budget granting Simmons’ corporation retroactive immunity from legal liability. The motion was the final “999 motion” of the 2013 budget deliberations (see 6b).

Ross noted that the lead paint legal immunity caper is just one scheme perpetrated on the people of Wisconsin by longtime politician Luther Olsen. In addition to protecting corporations that participated in the poisoning of children, Olsen has voted for the largest cuts to public education in state history; voted multiple times against helping Wisconsin student loan borrowers refinance their loans, just like you can with a mortgage; voted for a tax break that will give an average windfall of $120,000 to millionaires; and has voted to raid tens of millions of dollars in funds from state veterans homes, despite serious reports of substandard care at the veterans home in his district.

He concluded, “Luther Olsen has shown time and again with his votes that he’ll side with the party bosses and the campaign cash. You better believe that the special interests and his fundraiser ‘special guests’ Walker and Fitzgerald know that too.”

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