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Happ and the ‘war on women’

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Waukesha Freeman September 19, 2014 Page A5 Opinion

Happ and the ‘war on women’

When Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ was added to the state Democratic ticket as the party’s nominee for state attorney general, the combination of Happ and gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke promised to embody the “war on women” theme.

However, Happ’s history has come back to haunt her. The conservative organization Media Trackers unearthed a case where Happ had a strong conflict of interest in a case involving the alleged sexual abuse of a minor.

Happ and her husband were in a land deal with the suspect at the time of the investigation. The land deal involved the sale of a property by Happ to the defendant for $180,000 over a period of time that covered her office’s handling of the case.

Rather than recuse her office and refer the case to a special prosecutor, as is routinely done when such conflicts arise, Happ assigned the case to a prosecutor in her office. After the land contract was complete and Happ and her husband received the full $180,000, the charges were reduced in the case to disorderly conduct in a deferred prosecution agreement.

As shocking as that was, the behavior of Happ’s campaign since the story surfaced has been remarkably awful.

Happ’s spokesman first tried to compare the case to her opponent Waukesha District Attorney Brad Schimel’s handling of the case against State Rep. Bill Kramer. Even though Kramer donated money to Schimel’s campaign fund, Schimel assigned the case to one of his subordinates rather than seek a special prosecutor.

However, what is sometimes left out of media accounts of the case is that Schimel gave the Kramer campaign contributions to charity. Schimel did not personally profit from the campaign donation, unlike Happ and her land contract, and rid himself of the conflict of interest. The victim in the sexual abuse case recently decided to file a complaint against Happ for the way her office handled the case. The victim alleges she asked the prosecutor assigned by Happ to have the case moved, and her request was refused despite the conflict of interest.

The victim also alleges that she was contacted by one of Happ’s employees in the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office telling her to keep quiet about the case. It’s chilling to think that someone who was allegedly sexually abused starting in the third grade would be treated like this to save the political career of Susan Happ.

After WKOW-TV in Madison reported on the complaint, the Happ campaign turned to fellow Democrat, disgraced former State Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, to attack the victim. Lautenschlager’s political career was effectively ended when she ended up in a ditch in a state car after driving drunk.

Lautenschlager came to the defense of Happ by questioning the timing of the complaint, suggesting it was politically motivated. She told The Capital Times, “It’s sort of the ultimate political dirty trick in many ways, and I think that to use a victim in order to make an election ploy of this sort is dipping lower than we’ve mostly seen in a state like Wisconsin before.”

How dare any victim of alleged sexual abuse stand up for herself when there’s an election to be won?

However, as the organization Media Trackers reported, the victim in this case is not a partisan Republican. In fact, she signed recall petitions for both Gov. Scott Walker and state Sen. Scott Fitzgerald. So much for Lautenschlager’s partisan narrative.

When a group of Republican women in the state Legislature called upon the liberal women’s group Emily’s List to withdraw their support of Happ, the organization defended Happ by pointing out she was in line with their political agenda while her opponent was not.

Another liberal group, One Wisconsin Now, actually attacked the women legislators in a press release accusing them of having an “Anti-Women agenda.” Of course, the press release never mentioned the legislators were actually women themselves.

Instead of standing up for an alleged victim of sexual abuse, the Democratic machine is choosing to stand with a prosecutor who personally profited from soft treatment of her alleged abuser. There is a “war on women” in Wisconsin, and it’s being waged by Democrats on any women that get in their way.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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