Analysis Politics

Wisconsin Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, “Sugar Daddy” and Women Voters in the Walker Recall

Andy Kopsa

In what is the first major election battle in the 2012 cycle, Governor Scott Walker is pitting woman against woman in his pending recall election.  Walker's Lt. Governor, Rebecca Kleefisch played the “sugar daddy” card in an off the wall statement.  

The Wisconsin recall election is fixing to get ugly. 

In what is the first major election battle in the 2012 cycle, Governor Scott Walker is pitting woman against woman in his pending recall election. Walker’s Lt. Governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, played the “sugar daddy” card in an off-the-wall statement aimed directly at Walker challenger Kathleen Falk. 

This from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal on March 26:

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch is attacking a Democratic recall challenger to Gov. Scott Walker and throwing gender politics into the mix.

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Kleefisch, a Republican, is criticizing former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk for “setting women back 50 years.”

Kleefisch said Falk is using public employee unions as a “sugar daddy” to support her campaign and in exchange promising to strongly restoring collective bargaining provisions repealed by Walker.

“It is scandalous, and it reeks of the dependent, fragile woman leaning on a big, strong arm because she doesn’t believe she can do it on her own,” Kleefisch said.

Melissa Baldauff, co-chairwoman of the Democratic group Women against Walker, released a statement saying that Kleefisch should apologize for the “deplorable language” and that Walker policies had been more harmful to women because they had reduced their access to health care. 

(Read Kleefisch’s full statement here)

Kleefisch hammers on the union angle as Falk has secured the endorsement of several unions, including the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) and AFSCME.

Kleefisch nonsense aside, this gets to the heart of the matter: Women voters matter in elections (perhaps more than ever in this cycle) and women voters will matter in the Walker recall election. 

Speaking with Kathleen Falk earlier this month on the last day of a decidedly anti-choice/anti-women Wisconsin legislative session, Falk made no bones about Walker’s declared war on women:

I asked Falk about the idea of a real “war on women” not only in Wisconsin but also throughout the US; did she believe there to be a war on women or were “we” overreacting? 

Falk, still wearing her pink leather jacket–the color of the Mad as Hell rally, gives me what I interpret as a knowing look, and turns to Ross, who hands me a ready copy of a press release titled “Falk: Wisconsin Must End Walker’s ‘War on Women’. 

In it, Falk cuts to the chase:

“We have seen the rights of women under assault at the federal level with the Blunt amendment to allow employers to deny women basic health care coverage but here in Wisconsin we see an even more unrelenting attack on women’s rights from Governor Walker that will not end until he is recalled and we elect a new governor.” 

Falk believes she will be the new governor.  

Perhaps Kleefisch’s portrayal of unions as Falk’s ‘sugar daddy’ suggests Walker is worried that Falk may be right in her belief.   

Scot Ross, Falk’s communication director told me via email today in response to Kleefisch’s remarks:

“Gov. Walker’s ‘War on Women’ will not stop until we remove him from office and elect Kathleen Falk our next governor. Gov. Walker’s extremist attacks on women across Wisconsin, whether it’s ending pay equity protections, restricting access to reproductive care, or sending us back to the days of ‘abstinence only’ education, are in direct opposition to the values of the people of Wisconsin.”

No matter who becomes Wisconsin’s next governor, women voters will play a major role in the efforts to dump Walker.

The directive for women’s right’s advocates coming at the end of the Wisconsin session is that women must take their frustration to the ballot box and their first target is Walker. 

According to Tanya Atkinson, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Wisconsin, “The great thing about women is we don’t just get angry, we take action.”  The first chance they will get will be in the recall of Governor Walker.”

Atkinson and other pro-women advocates held a “Mad as Hell” rally on the steps of the capitol in Madison earlier this month to deliver the message that women aren’t taking this legislative nonsense any more. 

All though the rally came on the last day of the session, Lisa Subeck of NARAL Wisconsin calls it, “just a starting point.”  According to Subeck and representatives from Planned Parenthood and other women’s rights advocates, the next logical – and imperative step – is to get women out to vote. 

Wisconsin could serve as a bellwether for how women will vote come November; how women organize around the Wisconsin recall could signal how women will organize in other states and nationally to oust anti-choice legislators around the country. 

Wisconsin’s repeal of the Healthy Youth Act, a ban on telemed abortion and the use of misleading “anti-coercion” language in an anti-choice bill, as well as bans on private insurance coverage for abortion, are all the sad product of a disastrous 2010 election cycle for women’s rights advocates. I will be looking to Wisconsin for hope and possibly a way forward to undo some of the damaging and in some cases life-threatening anti-women legislation that has been unleashed across the country.

News Abortion

Abortion Providers Could Recoup Millions From Wisconsin After Fighting Unconstitutional Anti-Choice Law

Michelle D. Anderson

The providers seeking money include Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Inc., Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Milwaukee Women's Medical Services, which conducts business as Affiliated Medical Services.

Abortion providers serving Wisconsin residents could recoup nearly $1.8 million in legal fees they amassed while fighting an anti-choice law that was first blocked in 2013. However, spokespeople for the State of Wisconsin have raised the possibility of an undisclosed settlement.

In a U.S. District Court filing dated July 28, the providers requested an award of “attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses” that could be recouped under the Civil Rights Attorneys’ Fee Awards Act of 1976. On Wednesday in response, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel asked the court to extend the due date for the state to respond from August 18 to September 1. The request was granted, according to court documents.

“The parties are currently discussing settlement of the plaintiffs’ motion. An extension of the briefing schedule would allow the parties the opportunity to explore the possibility of a settlement of this issue,” Schimel said in the court filing.

The providers seeking money include Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Inc., Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Milwaukee Women’s Medical Services, which conducts business as Affiliated Medical Services. The sum requested includes $1.7 million in attorneys’ fees, $44,253 in billable costs and $22,545 in out-of-pocket expenses, according to the court filing.

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The providers amassed the fees fighting Wisconsin Act 37 of 2013, a Republican-initiated law that required doctors to have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of the location where an abortion was to be performed.

U.S. District Judge William Conley of the Western District of Wisconsin blocked the law’s enforcement soon after Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed it in 2013.

The state attorney general twice appealed to the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which affirmed the lower court’s decision both times; the U.S. Supreme Court also declined to take the case a day after overturning a similar provision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

In a Court of Appeals opinion issued in November 2015, the court said there was no evidence that “transfer agreements provide inferior protection to the health of women undergoing abortion compared to admitting privileges.” The opinion concluded by saying the unconstitutional statute was burdensome and curtailed citizens’ constitutional right to an abortion.

“The statute may not be irrational, yet may still impose an undue burden—a burden excessive in relation to the aims of the statute and the benefits likely to be conferred by it— and if so it is unconstitutional,” the court said.

If not blocked, the law would have forced pregnant people in various parts of the state to travel at least an extra 200 miles round trip to access legal abortion, according to a previous Rewire report.

Johnny Koremenos, a spokesperson for Schimel, had indicated in statements to the Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin State Journal earlier this month that the state would fight the charges for legal fees. He said Schimel would challenge the providers’ request “to ensure that the state is not paying more than it should be for those fees,” according to local news reports.

Koremenos did not respond to Rewire’s request for comment.

Walker also supported fighting the fees, his spokesperson told the Journal Sentinel.

Ismael Ozanne, the district attorney for Dane County, was also named as a defendant in the providers’ lawsuit, along with several state medical examining board members.

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin spokeswoman Iris Riis told Rewire the money Planned Parenthood is seeking in this case is only a recoup of the legal fees already spent fighting the unconstitutional admitting privileges law.

“There would not be any leftover money to allocate to services or any fund. It would just cover what was already spent. Governor Walker’s administration appealed multiple definitive rulings, wasting countless taxpayer dollars in the process. That action also drove up our legal costs,” Riis said.

Riis said the plaintiffs do not know when Conley will issue the ruling that will determine whether Schimel will have to compensate them for legal fees.

Andrew Wiseman, a deputy clerk in the U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin, told Rewire the court could not offer a prediction about the date of Conley’s ruling.

Affiliated Medical Services, which operates a clinic in Milwaukee, is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, while private attorneys are representing Planned Parenthood.

News Health Systems

New GOP Kentucky Governor Wants to Undo the State’s Health-Care Gains

Teddy Wilson

Bevin's victory leaves in doubt the future of the program that provides health care to more than 400,000 low-income residents.

Newly elected Kentucky governor, Republican Matt Bevin, may be poised to eliminate health care for thousands of the state’s low-income residents after he defeated Attorney General Jack Conway on Tuesday.  

The gubernatorial campaign focused heavily on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the state’s expansion of Medicaid. Bevin promised to dramatically scale back the state’s kynect program, which expanded health-care access. Bevin’s victory leaves in doubt the future of the program that provides health care to more than 400,000 low-income residents.

“I’m proud of the fact that this is a great night for Republicans in Kentucky and, more importantly, a great night for conservatives in Kentucky,” Bevin said in front of a crowd of supporters, reported the New York Times. Bevin added, “We have a lot of work to do.”

Bevin won decisively, defeating Conway, 52.5 percent to 43.8 percent, after narrowly winning the Republican primary in May by 83 votes.

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The victory comes less than two years after Bevin waged an unsuccessful primary campaign against U.S. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.

Bevin’s wealth and campaign style earned him comparisons to Republican presidential candidate billionaire Donald Trump. However, the policies he has promised to implement as governor are comparable to Republican governors such Kansas’ Sam Brownback and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, who have focused efforts on eliminating health-care access to low-income families.

The central issue of the campaign was the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA through the kynect program, which Bevin called “a disaster.”

The program has been widely praised as a success, and it has been credited with reducing the uninsured rate in the state from 20.4 percent in 2013 to 11.9 percent in mid-year 2014. Kentucky’s 8.5 percent drop in the uninsured rate over the past two years is more than any other state with the exception of Arkansas.

Bevin said that if elected he would repeal Gov. Steve Beshear’s executive order expanding Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. “Absolutely,” Bevin said. “No question about it. I would reverse that immediately.”

Bevin’s proposed plan is to transition residents on Medicaid through kynect to the federal health insurance exchange by 2017, when the federal subsidies are reduced.

The federal government pays 100 percent of the cost of expanding Medicaid in the state, and beginning in 2017, federal funding will decrease to 90 percent. Kentucky’s expansion of Medicaid created a $15.6 billion economic impact as well as nearly 17,000 new jobs across the state, according an analysis by the state health department.

Bevin has expressed an ideological opposition to Medicaid expansion. During a debate in May, Bevin said that there are too many “able bodied, working age people” who are “taking advantage” of the government benefits.

“We’ve got to stop subsidizing poor decisions,” Bevin said, reported the Lexington Herald-Leader. “Stop subsidizing those who are able to take advantage of a situation and of a system that we literally cannot afford to continue.”

The elimination of the kynect program is just one of an assortment of conservative policies Bevin will seek to impose as governor. He has also pushed implementation of so-called right-to-work laws designed to crush labor unions, and has promised to “lead the charge” decreasing taxes and regulations on businesses.

Bevin, who became Kentucky’s first Republican governor since 2003 and just the second Republican to hold the office since 1971, may soon have the GOP majorities he needs in the state legislature to implement his agenda.

The Republican gains in Kentucky are just the latest in two decades worth of defeats for Democrats throughout the South, and leaves only Virginia with a Democrat in the governor’s mansion.

Kentucky is the only Southern state in which Republicans and Democrats each control one chamber of the state legislature. Republicans hold a massive 27-11 majority in the state senate, while Democrats maintain a slim 54-46 majority in the state house.

However, the control of the state house may now be in doubt.

“This changes the dynamics,” state Senate President Robert Stivers told the New York Times. “Instead of having one leg of the stool, we now have two legs of the stool—and the third leg is very weak.”


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