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Threats against WI lawmakers rarely lead to charges

By   /   April 19, 2012  /   No Comments

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — For Dale Schultz, the threat hit a little too close to home, a top aide tells Wisconsin Reporter.

Schultz, a Republican state senator from Richland Center, became a target of animosity last month, as the Legislature debated a controversial bill that could have opened the door to iron ore mining in northern Wisconsin.

A Republican version of the bill did not come to a vote, in large part, because Schultz didn’t care for it, favoring a compromise proposal co-authored with state Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar.

While Schultz’s office said the senator had received a flood of supportive calls from his district, contacts from residents in the southeastern and northern parts of the state — areas that could have benefited from the proposed $1.5 billion mine — were not so pleasant.

One, in particular, proved threatening, said Todd Allbaugh, Schultz’s chief of staff.

Allbaugh said a man called and threatened to ruin Schultz and his family financially. He said police identified the man, who admitted to making the call but claimed he was doing so in jest.

“From Dale’s perspective, unfortunately in this era we have disgruntled people. As a legislator, that comes with the territory,” Allbaugh said. “But when someone crosses the line mentioning your family, that’s disconcerting.”

That incident has yet to be corroborated by the state Department of Administration, which has been slow to respond to Wisconsin Reporter’s public records request of incidents of threats against lawmakers and others at the capitol between April 2011 and February 2012.

Wisconsin Reporter also has filed a request with the state Department of Justice, or DOJ, which after multiple media requests last spring released incident reports for February 2011 and March 2011, during the height of protests at the state capitol. DOJ has not released incident reports beyond March of last year.

Schultz’s office was egged in November, not long after the maverick Republican expressed his displeasure with his party’s push to move up changes to legislative district maps in advance of recall elections.

And during the battle over Act 10, which curbed collective bargaining for most public employees — a bill Schultz did not support — Schultz received a threatening phone call from a man claiming to live in the lawmaker’s 17th Senate District.

The DOJ release notes for 90 incidents of suspected threats against lawmakers, the governor, their families and others, between Feb. 17, 2011, and March 25, 2011.

Democrats and Republicans received threatening contacts, according to the report, such as that involving state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, whose daughter was threatened by a caller to his home.

More recently, state Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, reported that someone mailed her a bag of feces, a protest to her opposition to the mining bill. Taylor told Wisconsin Reporter on Thursday that she’s had rats sent to her and received several threats via email.

She said no arrests in any of the cases have been made, and she is referring all incidents to capitol police.

In the vast majority of the incidents last year in which suspects were located, no charges were filed.

Allbaugh said most contacts to Schultz’ office, even at the peak of divisive issues, have been civil.

“Out of the hundreds over mining, the thousands over collective bargaining, out of all of those calls and emails, less than five were actually crossing the line into what we would deem direct threats,” the spokesman said. “Folks can be passionate, some may be rude at times, but the vast majority can disagree without being disagreeable.”