FRI REPORT: Budget watchers see options, challenges for JFC with final votes on tap next week

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Publicly displaying the Rainbow Pride flag sends a clear and unequivocal message that Wisconsin is a welcoming and inclusive place where everyone can live without fear of persecution, judgment, or discrimination.
– Gov. Tony Evers on raising the Rainbow Pride flag over the state Capitol.

(The rainbow flag) advocates a behavior or lifestyle that some Wisconsin residents may not condone. Therefore, it is divisive.
– Rep. Scott Allen, R-Waukesha, in response to Evers’ action.

The people of Wisconsin told us during the campaign to fix the damn roads. Now if Republican leadership has an idea how we can magically do that without increasing the gas tax, we’ll certainly be looking for that.
– Gov. Tony Evers ahead of Republicans releasing their transportation plan, which includes increased title and registration fees, along with bonding, to fund transportation. A spokeswoman for Evers criticized this plan, saying it fails to make out-of-state drivers pay their fair share.

Assembly Republicans finally achieved our goal of increasing revenues to fix our roads and bridges. The GOP agreement also lays the foundation for a long-term funding solution while instituting pro-taxpayer reforms.
– Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, in a joint statement with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, after JFC passage of the GOP transportation plan.

With our state continuing to make significant investments in infrastructure, it’s the duty of the Legislature to make sure that taxpayer dollars are being spent responsibly.
– Fitzgerald, who in the joint statement said Republican would soon introduce a plan to control costs and increase accountability within the Department of Transportation.

Tonight is a big win for the road building special interests and a big loss for the taxpayers. The Joint Finance Committee package contains excessively high levels of new revenues with no accountability or reform measures.
– Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, knocking the transportation plan.

We want to use this one-time money to make a difference in the one thing all of our constituents have told us they want: to fix our roads.
– Sen. Howard Marklein on a plan from 10 Senate Republicans that would use a portion of the state’s budget surplus to give each county $1 million and each town $1,000 per mile of road in its jurisdiction to fix roads. Fitzgerald and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, both said they want to look at the proposal outside of the JFC’s transportation plan.

We support the idea of investing in roads. This is not a holistic solution by any means.
– Jerry Deschane, executive director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, criticizing the plan for not including cities and villages, which are home to 70 percent of the state’s population.

If we are to attract, to develop and to retain the world-class talent that Wisconsin desperately needs, we need world-class classrooms and added STEM capacity.
– UW System President Ray Cross during a Board of Regents meeting calling on lawmakers to provide funding to repair and renovate university buildings as the Joint Finance Committee edges closer to taking up Evers’ capital budget.

You’d see them being brought closer together. Imagine how much better Thanksgiving dinner could be.
– Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes discussing marijuana legalization during his address to the Dem Party state convention while slamming Vos’ for calling the Evers’ budget provision on pot a poison pill. The real poison pill, Barnes said, was the opioids that had flooded the state. He said there was no chance families would be torn apart by marijuana.

Pathetic that anyone wld push drug use as a way to spend time together as a family. Doesn’t comprehend how drug use in general has ripped families apart? I’m at a loss.
– Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, in a tweet calling on Barnes to apologize for his comment. Steineke also wrote on Twitter it was “ridiculous for anyone to say, let alone an elected official.”

We’re going to build a powerhouse operation like no one in Wisconsin has ever seen to make sure Wisconsin is a blue brick wall for the presidential election.
– New Dem Party Chair Ben Wikler after being elected to lead the party at the Dem Party state convention. Wikler bested Rep. David Bowen, who had served as first vice chair for the past four years, 1,006 votes to 233,

*See coverage of last weekend’s convention:

–A collection of insider opinion–
(Jun. 1-7, 2019)


Ben Wikler: The former senior adviser to did something impressive in his runaway victory for state Dem chair, insiders say. He convinced the consultant class, the progressive wing and everyone in between that he was the right person for the job. That, some say, is how best to explain Wikler winning 81 percent of the vote at the state convention in besting Rep. David Bowen, who had spent the previous four years as the party’s first vice-chair. That margin, insiders say, is also a sign that Wikler just outworked Bowen in the race. To some it’s no surprise considering Wikler’s background in organizing. Still, he tells reporters after his win that he called every delegate in the lead up to the election to court their votes. Dems say he also got a boost with the perception that he was the favored candidate of Gov. Tony Evers and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Neither endorsed in the race, choosing to remain neutral. But people around them were heavily involved in Wikler’s campaign, and it drove an early perception that the two might get behind his bid. Even though neither did, the perception of their support continued to hover around Wikler’s candidacy. Meanwhile, insiders say Bowen struggled to gain support, because he didn’t capitalize on a burst of attention he received in 2016 as the only Wisconsin superdelegate to endorse Bernie Sanders. That opened a small-dollar floodgate for Bowen as he raised $82,153 in 2016. That’s nearly three times what he pulled in during 2014 — and 12 times what he raised in 2018. His fundraising record, insiders say, raised questions on whether he would be an effective fundraiser leading the party, because Bowen hadn’t moved to professionalize his own operation with the new resources and build more meaningful relationships. Some Dems believe Wikler will have a learning curve on the job. Party life is a little different than MoveOn. Org, and his new role will mean being a messenger, organizer and a fundraiser. With Evers in the East Wing, some note, that will ease the message demands to be placed on Wikler. But having credibility with the grassroots after wooing them in his bid and having a background in organizing will help in this important cycle.

Public defenders: It’s rare for any one group to get everything it asks for in the budget. So while the package that clears the Joint Finance Committee is less than what the coalition of public defenders, prosecutors, DOJ and the courts sought, it’s still a welcome boost. That’s particularly true with the increase in the private bar rate under the Public Defenders Office. Now among the lowest in the country at $40 an hour, the rate hasn’t been touched since 1995, when it was cut $10. Since then, it has been a constant slog for the office to persuade lawmakers to kick in something extra. But this time, the justice system took a different approach to the budget. Rather than competing for resources, the various interests combined efforts to make a joint pitch to the Capitol with the message that any weak link in the system creates a domino effect for everyone else. So when the Public Defenders Office can’t find a private attorney to represent an indigent defendant for $40 an hour, it creates delays in the court. It also results in judges appointing attorneys — now at $70 an hour, but soon to climb to $100 an hour. It’s also part of why the coalition pushed for more money to pay prosecutors, more positions in the state crime lab and some money for counties to offset the cost of a Supreme Court order dictating the increase to $100 per hour for the court-appointed attorney rate. In the end, each interest gets a piece of what it was looking for with the hopes that it will improve court operations for everyone.

Open records: Advocates from opposite ends of the political spectrum unite in court to win a victory for access to public records. The Court of Appeals affirmed a Dane County judge’s ruling that lawmakers must provide electronic copies of emails if they are requested in that form. The ruling came after Bill Lueders, editor of The Progressive, requested correspondence between Nekoosa Republican Rep. Scott Krug and his constituents on water and conservation bills. Krug handed over paper copies, but cited state law in refusing to provide electronic copies when Lueder followed up with a specific request for them. Lueders sued and won. But when Krug appealed, Lueders was backed in court by an unlikely ally, the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting his position. The circuit court decision was affirmed by the appellate court, setting precedent that applies to custodians of public records statewide.


Daniel Kelly: It’s been no secret that the conservative justice may have to fight Dem turnout for the 2020 presidential primary to win a full 10-year term on the court. Insiders, though, will be watching to see who’s willing to take on that fight with him. Kelly is now officially in the race, but the dynamic of his contest hasn’t changed in months. With a wide-open Dem field looking to win the nomination to face President Trump, will that race — and the Dem turnout — swamp any efforts by conservatives to get Kelly elected? There are any number of factors that will influence that equation, including the possibility someone runs away with the Dem nomination and the contest is over by the time it reaches Wisconsin. Still, some hard numbers are staring at Kelly backers. With a surge of conservatism enthusiasm this spring, 606,000 turned out to support conservative Brian Hagedorn in his narrow state Supreme Court victory. With Hillary Clinton largely in control of the Dem nomination fight, more than 1 million still turned out to vote in her primary with Bernie Sanders. So can conservatives take it up a notch — several, actually — to go from 600,000 votes to match Dems? Some conservatives are confident groups on their side of the aisle will come to Kelly’s aide, even with the difficult odds. For one, he’s well respected in conservative legal circles, and there will be pressure to get involved in this fight after some groups sat out the Hagedorn race. Others aren’t so sure. For groups such as the Realtors, for example, there’s just a different dynamic at play when it comes to getting involved in divisive elections with members who plant their signs in blue and red yards, gay and straight, etc. Kelly has some writings in his background that could make some uncomfortable, insiders add. Two, groups will have to decide if it’s a worthwhile investment, even if they back Kelly philosophically. It’s one thing to get 600,000 to turn out for Hagedorn, riding a wave of grassroots enthusiasm. But creeping toward the 1 million mark means pulling in voters closer and closer to the middle of the political spectrum. That can be trickier — and require a lot of resources, some say. Or it can mean finding more non-traditional spring voters — think Trump backers, some say — to see if they can be motivated to turn out even without the president not on the ballot. And if there’s a path for Kelly, some expect the Republican State Leadership Committee to become a significant player in the race after its late effort on behalf of Hagedorn helped push him over the top. While business groups may shy away from races with uncomfortable issues, the RSLC’s Judicial Fairness Initiative doesn’t have to worry about nervous members, just about getting donors to open their wallets for the fight.

Kevin Nicholson: The former Marine and business consultant faced lots of questions about his political conversion as he lost the GOP nomination to Leah Vukmir. Ever since, he’s been steadily checking a series of boxes to build his conservative creds. And now he’s got an advocacy group he says will promote conservative ideas. But it also looks to some like a ready-made campaign operation if he decides to run again in 2022. On paper, Nicholson had a candidate profile that some thought would’ve been ideal to challenge U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, last year. His time in the Marines gave him credibility to talk about foreign affairs, and backers believed his story of joining the GOP after serving as president of the College Dems 18 years earlier would be attractive to moderate voters. But the latter raised suspicions among GOP primary voters who wondered where he’d been in the conservative fights of the past decade while then-state Sen. Leah Vukmir — who beat him — had paid her dues. Since that loss, Nicholson backed Vukmir in the general election — that Baldwin won by 11 points — and started hitting Lincoln Day dinners. At the GOP state convention last month, Nicholson told he remains committed to the conservative cause and bringing more to the movement. He also said he was focused on helping President Trump win re-election in 2020 before thinking about another run in 2022. Now, he announces the No Better Friend Corp., a takeoff of the Marine Corps’ unofficial slogan, “no better friend, no worse enemy.” While the group will push conservative solutions, insiders also see the foundation for another campaign. The group’s paid staff includes two who worked on Nicholson’s campaign, and the advisory board includes his campaign fundraiser, the honorary co-chairs and Illinois businessman Dick Uihlein. That means Dick Uihlein’s checkbook is part of the effort as well. He gave some $11 million to groups that backed Nicholson’s Senate run, and he can help fuel a platform for Nicholson to speak on issues and build credibility with the GOP grassroots. Some, though, believe the grassroots will take a wait-and-see approach to Nicholson’s efforts. If he uses the new group to get into the trenches to fight for conservative goals with other organizations, that’s one thing. But if it just becomes a way to ramp up fundraising operations and build infrastructure ahead of 2022, that could undercut some of the goodwill he’s been trying to build up. Others note while it’s not yet clear what the organization will do, the fact he’s bringing in four paid staffers suggests it’s more than just a campaign-in-waiting. But even if it is a foundation for a campaign, how long might Nicholson have to wait to spring it into action? U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, is still toying with the idea of running for a third term, getting into the race for guv or sticking to his original plan and going back to the private sector after his current Senate term is up. Former Gov. Scott Walker is still making the rounds on the speaking circuit and social media, continuing to leave the door open to a comeback attempt in three years. And so what looks at the outset as a three-year operation could turn into a five-year plan if there’s no opening for Nicholson in 2022, unless he decides to run regardless of who else is in. Either way, some say, Nicholson is young and ambitious. The new group is a sign he’s not going to fade away from the scene anytime soon.


Gas tax: Republicans hammer out a transportation plan that gets them into the same ballpark as Gov. Tony Evers’ proposal for the next two years. But they made sure to get there without a gas tax increase. Still, even as backers hail it publicly as a sustainable plan, some acknowledge quietly that it also isn’t a long-term solution to Wisconsin’s transportation funding puzzle but rather a bridge to what comes next. In many ways, insiders note, the debate Republicans had on transportation after Evers released his plan wasn’t that much different than the discussions they had when Gov. Scott Walker was in office other than knowing they had a more willing partner to raise revenues. But that only goes so far when GOP lawmakers have such deep divisions over funding transportation. While there are those who believe a gas tax hike is a must for any long-term solution, there are those on the other side of the caucus who don’t believe the state should be giving DOT more money, period, instead seeing it as a wasteful agency that should clean up its act first. Faced with that reality, GOP leaders eschew a gas tax hike for a series of fee increases, most notably jacking up the title transfer fee by $95 to $164.50. Still, that approach comes with its own political problems. Dems slam the proposal for hitting the elderly widow driving twice a week just as much as it does the salesman racking up 50,000 miles a year. What’s more, Dems point out, it doesn’t result in out-of-state drivers paying anything more to account for their wear and tear on Wisconsin roads as they travel the state for work or vacation. Some Republicans acknowledge Dems have a point. But there’s also a political reality at play, they argue: There is simply no way to get a tax hike of any kind through the Senate GOP caucus. It befuddles some why a significant fee increase is OK, but a tax hike bringing in about the same revenue isn’t. Still, the plan that emerges from Joint Finance could be the best Republican lawmakers can do for now. Then what? Some see the JFC proposal as a four-year approach. It won’t address the state’s long-term needs. But it buys more time to continue having discussions on new revenue models, such as a mileage-based system, thus the $2.5 million Republicans added to the transportation motion to study that approach. That window also could give the state time to move on tolling. Or it could be just long enough to see the state’s debt service start to drop, getting it back to a level where borrowing is a much more acceptable option. As much as Dems slam Republicans for being shortsighted, GOP lawmakers counter Evers didn’t provide a long-term answer, either, because the gas tax isn’t a reliable source of revenue going forward. Cars are getting more fuel efficient, there are more electric vehicles on the road and millennials are driving less. That all adds up to a need for a different approach to funding highways — and a conversation that can be pushed down the road with what emerged from Joint Finance.

Milwaukee: When Gov. Tony Evers announced his budget, some Republicans saw it was a good document — for the state’s largest city. Now that the GOP-controlled Finance Committee is reworking the guv’s budget line-by-line, Milwaukee is turning into one of the biggest losers in the process. The latest is a cut to shared revenue as part of a DCF package that results in a sharp exchange among Finance members. Milwaukee County is the only one in Wisconsin where the state operates the child welfare system, and under existing law, its shared revenue is supposed to be reduced to account for the services the state provides. But the amount of the reduction hasn’t increased since at least 2012, according to Republicans, even as costs have increased dramatically to provide the services. So when the GOP motion on DCF includes a $14.4 million cut in Milwaukee County’s shared revenue payments, Dems tee off. While acknowledging the unique situation of his home county, Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, calls the move blatantly unfair. But Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, fires back that others on the committee should feel the same outrage because their constituents have been picking up a bigger share of the tab for Milwaukee’s child welfare services. “You said it was a screwing of Milwaukee. I’d say it was a screwing in the opposite direction, and we’re going to stop that tonight,” Born says. That has been a constant thread in the committee’s fights over Milwaukee provisions with Dems complaining the city is being singled out and Republicans countering it should be doing more to address its own problems without asking the state to kick in extra. And to some, the debate is nothing new with the only difference now compared to the past eight years is Dem feels like they have an advocate in the East Wing.

UW System: President Ray Cross has dedicated a significant chunk of his time in the job trying to cultivate a relationship with Capitol Republicans, even as Dems complained that work would never bear fruit. So when the GOP-controlled Joint Finance Committee rejects significant chunks of Gov. Tony Evers’ UW budget, Cross unloads, complaining he was “kicked in the shins.” Now he has to pin hopes on the capital budget to pull out a win in this budget. As the Joint Finance Committee has worked its way through Evers’ proposal, a theme has emerged of Senate Republicans wanting to spend less than their Assembly GOP counterparts. And that’s no different with the UW budget as the committee approves $69.7 million less in new state aid than the $126.6 million that Evers had proposed. What’s more, JFC Republicans want the UW to come back with a plan on how to spend $45 million of that boost before it would be released. That turns into the usual debate between the two parties with Dems complaining the university is being starved and Republicans countering the system has plenty in reserve. But after sitting through that show, Cross tees off. He slammed the GOP proposal as a missed opportunity, saying the university has regularly heard from Republican lawmakers that they want more of a focus on better preparing the state’s workforce for high-demand jobs. At the same time, he says, the system was accused by others of putting together its budget proposal based off GOP talking points to focus on workforce development. So insiders aren’t surprised when Cross says he’s frustrated. But he raises some eyebrows when he complains, “I feel like I’ve been kicked in the shins.” Cross tells reporters he had been told earlier this spring by Republicans that the budget proposal was reasonable only to have that change the week before the vote, but he’s not sure why. Insiders, though, say they have an idea. Like with many other things this budget, Assembly Republicans were willing to spend more than their Senate GOP counterparts, and the Senate held firm on this one. Conservatives say some Senate Republicans have a list of concerns with the UW, from the money it has in reserve to the lack of effort they see on changes they’ve long wanted at the system, from teaching loads for faculty to free speech issues. To some insiders, the nick UW took wasn’t personal, but part of the political dynamic in the Senate GOP caucus. With 19 members and Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, only able to lose two to pass a budget, the conservative wing of the caucus is going to win out at times when it digs in, and some say this was one of those occasions. Now, insiders say, the question is how that dynamic will play out with the capital budget. The $2.5 billion plan Evers proposed included nearly $2 billion in new borrowing with nearly $1.1 billion of the overall spending earmarked for the UW System. Republicans have raised concerns about the amount of borrowing in Evers’ proposal, but Cross and UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank urged lawmakers to embrace university projects, noting some are supported by program revenue, such as tuition, or gifts and only need the state’s sign off. Some say the committee is looking at an overall capital budget of $2 billion, but keeping general fund-supported borrowing at $1 billion or less. But those final numbers will be hashed out as JFC wraps up work on the budget.


As the Joint Finance Committee has worked its way through the budget, insiders see Senate Republicans wanting to spend less than their Assembly GOP counterparts.

With the final committee votes of the budget expected next week, insiders are looking at options the Senate GOP contingent on the Finance Committee might propose to use the money that’s been squirreled away.

Sources indicated several options are on the table for the committee, from putting the money aside in case there’s a downturn in the economy to adding a new tax cut.

And whatever option might emerge, the next step will be figuring out how to get the committee’s proposal through a Senate GOP caucus that leaves little margin for error.

Gov. Tony Evers has already vetoed a GOP middle-income tax cut that was funded differently than the one he had proposed on the campaign trail and in his budget.

Bringing back a version of that tax cut could be one option for the committee. There are also some Senate Republicans who have expressed an interest in taking another whack at the personal property tax after the 2017-19 budget pared it back.

That 2017 move included a provision to pay municipalities to replace revenue lost from the tax, and some have warned Evers could use his partial veto authority to veto any changes to the personal property tax while leaving in place the boost to state aid to local governments.

Another option that has been mentioned is collapsing the state’s second tax bracket. In tax year 2018, the four tax brackets were 4 percent, 5.84 percent, 6.27 percent and 7.65 percent. Single and married filers had different income thresholds to qualify for each, and the 5.84 percent bracket kicked in for income starting at $11,450 for a single filer and $15,270 for married joint filers.

That move also could be vulnerable to an Evers veto. Still, budget watchers noted that could actually help with the state’s structural deficit by resulting in more money available for the state’s ending balance.

While some Senate Republicans have been pushing various tax cut proposals, others have called for addressing the structural deficit. Evers’ proposal included a projected structural deficit of nearly $2 billion, but the Legislative Fiscal Bureau hasn’t done an update on where that stands after the JFC actions of the past month.

To drive down the structural deficit, Republicans could put more money aside in the ending balance. But others have argued against that, because it would create an opening for Evers to knock Republicans for keeping money in the state’s checking account rather than investing it in schools or other priorities.

The Senate GOP dynamic

With a 19-14 majority in the Senate, Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, can only lose two members and still get a budget through the chamber without Dem votes.

In looking at the caucus, some see Sen. Dave Craig, R-Big Bend, as a difficult get to support the document due to some of the spending increases proposed. And Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, raised concerns late Thursday over the structural deficit and the transportation package that cleared JFC.

Nass said the package includes “excessively high levels of new revenues with no accountability or reform measures.” And he had concerns about the separate reform package that Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, promised, saying Evers would veto any standalone bill.

Meanwhile, Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, has long raised concerns about the structural deficit. Sources also said he’s been pushing fellow Republicans to add five scientist positions to the DNR after an audit he requested showed a backlog of reviewing municipal, industrial and concentrated animal feeding operation wastewater discharge permits.

Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, voted against the DOT motion Thursday. But he said after the vote he was happy with the budget process otherwise, and insiders expect him to support the final package.

Budget watchers have identified Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, as another member to watch after he joined Craig, Nass and Stroebel two years ago in demanding several veto assurances from Walker before they would back the budget.

Meanwhile, freshman Sen. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, said he had concerns about the budget earlier in the process. But some of that has been offset by transportation projects for northeastern Wisconsin the JFC included in its Thursday motion, including an interchange in Brown County that’s part of work on I-41.

“I’m in a lot better place after last night,” Jacque said.

Insiders noted some other things to watch next week include:

*the capital budget: Evers had proposed $2.5 billion with nearly $1.9 billion in borrowing. Some expect Republicans to work on a $2 billion package that includes $1 billion in general fund-supported borrowing.

*the Stewardship Fund: There will be a debate about extending the program through June 30, 2022, as Evers has proposed or seeking additional rollbacks. Current law includes bonding authority through June 30, 2020.

*motion 999: Typically, the wrap-up motion is used to put things into the budget at the last minute, often to win support from holdout lawmakers. But with a Dem in the East Wing, that dynamic has changed, and some are watching to see if the motion pulls items out of the document JFC has put together so far out of caution over how Evers might use his partial veto authority. The more policy in the budget, insiders note, the more options Evers would have to rework the document.

Tuesday’s JFC hearing notice

The committee will take up general fund taxes when it meets Tuesday, according to the notice released this afternoon.

The committee is scheduled to convene at 1 p.m. with an agenda that includes:

Appropriation Obligation Bonds
Building Commission
Building Program
Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection
Board of Commissioners of Public Lands
Natural Resources –Conservation and Recreation
Juvenile Corrections
Veterans Affairs
General Fund Taxes–Income and Franchise Taxes
General Fund Taxes –Sales and Use Taxes
General Fund Taxes –Excise Taxes and Other Taxes

See the hearing notice:


Supreme Court candidate Jill Karofsky says the biggest mistake of her 27-career judicial career was bringing an obstruction charge against Patty Murphy, a legally blind woman who claimed she was sexually assaulted and robbed at knifepoint in her Madison home more than two decades ago.

But nearly 22 years later, Murphy believes that Karofsky would be a “terrific” Supreme Court justice thanks to tireless efforts to make amends and teach the next generation of lawyers and prosecutors how to avoid her missteps.

What’s more, Murphy told that she will “absolutely” vote for Karofsky next spring when the Dane County district court judge challenges sitting Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly for a seat on Wisconsin’s highest court.

But according to Karofsky, Murphy didn’t always feel that way.

A colossal f***-up

In the wee hours of the morning on Sept. 4, 1997, Murphy says an assailant broke into the apartment she shared with her daughter and anally, orally and vaginally raped her before forcing her into a closet and making off with her valuables.

She called the police, who immediately responded to the scene, collected evidence and took her to a hospital to be examined by a nurse specially trained to work with victims of sexual assault.

Bill Lueders, a Madison journalist and editor of The Progressive, authored the 2006 book “Cry Rape: The True Story of One Woman’s Harrowing Quest for Justice,” which details Murphy’s distressing experience. He told what happened next could only be described as a “colossal f***-up.”

“For the next year, police and prosecutors perpetuated the assault,” Lueders wrote. “Aside from the not-uncommon humiliation of being quizzed by a male detective about penis size and vaginal lubrication, Patty bore the added indignity of not being believed.

“On the initiative of this one detective, Patty’s report of being raped was turned into an investigation of her.”

That detective, Tom Woodmansee of the Madison Police Department, would present Karofsky — who was then a young deputy district attorney — with a document featuring 41 reasons why he believed Murphy was lying and had made up the whole ordeal.

“Among those were the fact that the physical evidence didn’t match up, that the timing didn’t match. He had interviewed her several times and her statements were inconsistent,” Karofsky told “And then ultimately, he confronted her in the basement of the Madison Police Department and she then said this didn’t happen.”

But Lueders said Woodmasee’s report on the investigation should have raised red flags on a number of points.

The State Crime Lab, for instance, found test-able quantities of semen on her bed sheet but did not process the sample before obstruction charges were brought against Murphy.

The nurse who was charged with examining her in the immediate aftermath of the incident noted that the signs of trauma were not as severe as they could have been. But a bruise on her thigh, scratch on her rectum, small lacerations on her face and neck, and a cut on her index finger were clear to see.

Woodmansee also expressed doubts about the veracity of Murphy’s story, because, as he said to her during a three-plus hour-long interview session, “You don’t act like a rape victim.”

But perhaps most damningly, the confession that Karofsky spoke of was acquired after Woodmansee cornered Murphy in an interrogation cell and lied to her about the results derived from the evidence collected at the scene of the crime.

“He told her that Poarch, the sexual-assault nurse… and State Crime Lab found ‘no evidence’ of rape,” Lueders wrote. “He told her the Crime Lab’s lab test for latex residue from the condom she says her assailant wore came back negative.

“This, he later admitted in court, was a ‘ruse’–there is no such thing as a test for latex residue.”

Lueders told that he believed Murphy’s will was broken in that interrogation room and “she was trying to say whatever the cops wanted to hear” when she confessed to making it all up, just to bring an end to the harassment.

With Woodmansee’s assertions in hand, Karofsky pushed forward with charging Murphy with obstructing an officer, a Class H Felony in the state of Wisconsin. She was responsible for drawing up the charging documents and appeared in court as the prosecutor.

The charge was dismissed after DNA testing on the semen found on Murphy’s bed sheet raised “the possibility that Murphy was assaulted,” but not before Karofsky praised the detectives for their work.

“The police officers in this case ought to be proud of what they did,” Lueders recalls Karofsky saying in court.

For her part, Karofsky did not dispute her portrayal or the claims laid out in the book and praised its author.

“I don’t know that any of this would have come to light were it not for really good reporting on the part of Bill Lueders,” she said.

Woodmansee subsequently left the Madison Police Department did not return multiple requests for comment from

A very misguided decision

Fast-forward 21 years and Karfosky, Murphy and Lueders are sitting at a boisterous Madison establishment celebrating Murphy’s 59th birthday.

“I’m lucky to have met you, and I’m sorry it was under the circumstances it was. I have apologized publicly. I have apologized personally. I’m sorry that the hell you went through was largely because of a decision I made, a very misguided decision,” Karofsky said at the event.

What changed between October 1997 and June 2018? According to Karofsky, she educated herself on how the brain functions in the wake of a traumatic event.

Similar to military veterans suffering from PTSD, victims of sexual assault can experience dysfunction in the amygdala — a small part of the brain that stores threat-related memories. Karofsky said she learned when that key region of the brain is impaired, it becomes incredibly difficult for a person to accurately piece together traumatic memories.

That was a difficult concept for the former prosecutor to grasp at first.

“We’re always taught in law school, and in fact, the rules of evidence are written such that inconsistent statements mean someone’s lying,” she said.

But after the case was dropped, and with forensic evidence mounting that Murphy was in fact sexually assaulted, Karofsky said the effects of trauma “completely crystallized for me.”

“The fact that Patty’s statements were inconsistent, over the course of the investigation during that first month actually proves the point that she had undergone a traumatic event rather than proving the point that she was lying,” she said.

For Karofsky, it wasn’t enough to have been wrong. It wasn’t enough to apologize. She felt she had to make things right by ensuring the next generation’s legal minds didn’t make the same mistakes she did.

She created a class at the UW-Madison Law School, where she was working as an instructor, to teach aspiring lawyers and prosecutors how to treat victims in the criminal justice system. And every semester, she would invite Murphy in to speak with her students about their shared experience.

Murphy was so well received at those events that Karofsky invited her to continue their work together when she was appointed to run the Department of Justice’s Office of Crime Victim Services. The pair traveled the state together to train prosecutors and first responders on trauma-informed response to crime victims.

In that period of time, Murphy says she learned a great deal about the woman who once sought to charge her with a felony. She always imagined Karofsky would one day run for public office but believes that her apologies and subsequent work teaching about trauma over the years were sincere efforts to make amends, rather than nefarious attempts to clear a black mark on her record.

“With the climate of the politics right now, I just think we need more people that can say, ‘Hey, you know, I screwed up. Let’s figure out what went wrong and fix that,'” Murphy said. “That’s something you don’t hear anymore.”

Murphy considers herself apolitical and when asked by about Justice Daniel Kelly, she said she had hardly heard of him and didn’t even know the gender of the sitting state Supreme Court justice. She said her decision to support Karofsky was based solely on the “courageous steps” taken by the former prosecutor in the aftermath of the case.

“I just wish there were more people like her in politics in general,” Murphy said.


Manu Raju, senior congressional correspondent at CNN, says he can foresee a scenario in which President Donald Trump’s proposed wide-ranging tariffs on Mexico could move forward despite outcry from Senate Republicans.

Trump has proposed rapidly escalating levies against Mexico in an effort to pressure Mexican authorities to ratchet up interior immigration enforcement to slow what has become an overwhelming flood of migrants seeking to enter the United States via the southern border.

Speaking at a luncheon in Washington on Wednesday, Raju said the plan faced stern pushback at a closed-door Senate GOP meeting with administration officials. While Republicans in the Senate have previously expressed concerns with Trump’s actions only to later support the administration’s goals on the floor, Raju said he feels “this is a little bit different.”

Republicans, Raju said, are philosophically opposed to tax increases and made the case that the tariffs would essentially be a tax on consumers. Raju pointed to a confrontation between Sen. Ted Cruz, who has proven to be a Trump ally in the aftermath of the 2016 campaign, and administration officials at the meeting. According to Raju, Cruz said the administration’s proposal would be a $30 billion tax increase on his home state of Texas.

But despite uproar from the Senate GOP conference, Raju said he foresees legislative efforts to block the plan proceeding in a similar fashion to Congress’ attempt to stop the president from unilaterally reappropriating funds to build a wall on the southern border. That led to a resolution of disapproval that passed both chambers but lacked the support to withstand Trump’s veto authority.

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson warned that “this would be a different vote.”

“Tariffs are not real popular in the Republican conference,” Johnson told reporters after the meeting.

But Raju said while the Senate might come close to having a veto-proof majority to block Trump’s action, “the House is a different story.”

“Republicans in the House conference tend to line themselves much more with the president and you have not heard as much outcry from House Republicans,” Raju said.

Raju also predicted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “is not going to bend” on impeachment despite growing calls from her caucus to move forward with proceedings that could remove Trump from office.

Raju said Pelosi was concerned the move would be politically advantageous for the president. Even if the House voted to impeach, Raju said, the proceeding would “die in the Senate,” where a conviction would require support from two-thirds of the body.

“The Senate would exonerate Trump, and Trump would campaign as being exonerated and the Democrats just wasted a year going through a fruitless impeachment proceeding,” Raju said.

But Raju said House Dems are ratcheting up pressure on Pelosi to move forward with an impeachment inquiry as Trump continues to instruct administration officials to defy subpoenas from the House Judiciary Committee. Raju noted that defying congressional subpoenas were among the articles of impeachment drafted against President Richard Nixon in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal.

Raju said Dems pushing for impeachment are in the minority in the House at the moment, largely due to Pelosi’s resistance to the move.

“I think she’s going to win. She tends to win these fights,” he said.

Hear audio from the luncheon:


Monday: Women’s suffrage centennial celebration.
– Noon, Capitol rotunda.

Tuesday: JFC executive session
– 1 p.m.: 412 East, state Capitol.

Thursday: luncheon: The future of transportation funding in Wisconsin.
– 11:30 a.m.: UW-Milwaukee’s Waukesha campus.

(Check local listings for times in your area)

“UpFront” is a statewide commercial TV news magazine show airing Sundays around the state. This week’s show, hosted by ADRIENNE PEDERSEN, features Joint Finance members Sens. LaTONYA JOHNSON, D-Milwaukee, and DEVIN LeMAHIEU, R-Oostburg, along with Wisconsin first lady KATHY EVERS.
*See viewing times in state markets here:
*Also view the show online each Monday at

“Rewind,” a weekly show from WisconsinEye and, airs at 8 p.m. on Fridays and 10 a.m. on Sundays in addition to being available online. On this week’s episode,’s JR ROSS and WisconsinEye’s STEVE WALTERS discuss the latest from the Joint Finance Committee, Senate votes on abortion bills and BEN WIKLER’s election as state Dem chair.
*Watch the show:

Wisconsin Public TV’s “Here and Now” airs at 7:30 p.m. Fridays. On this week’s program, anchor FREDERICA FREYBERG speaks with Rep. JOHN NYGREN, R-Marinette, and Sen. LATONYA JOHNSON, D-Milwaukee, about JFC action this week. U.S. Rep. MARK POCAN, D-Town of Vermont, weighs in on potential Mexican tariffs and the impact on Wisconsin.

“For the Record” airs at 10:30 a.m. Sunday on WISC-TV in Madison. Host NEIL HEINEN speaks with Madison Organizing in Strength, Equality and Solidarity on criminal justice reform.

“Capital City Sunday” airs at 9 a.m. Sunday on WKOW-TV in Madison, WAOW-TV in Wausau, WXOW-TV in La Crosse and WQOW-TV in Eau Claire. This week’s show includes DOT Secretary CRAIG THOMPSON, U.S. Rep. MARK POCAN and state Rep. AMY LOUDENBECK.

“The Insiders” is a weekly web show featuring former Democratic Senate Majority Leader CHUCK CHVALA and former Republican Assembly Speaker SCOTT JENSEN. This week, the wo offer mixed reviews on the JFC’s budget plan for the UW System.

*Watch the video or listen to the show:

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Upcoming events in Waukesha, Kenosha and Milwaukee include:

*A June 13 luncheon on transpo funding with DOT Secretary CRAIG THOMPSON, Waukesha County Exec PAUL FARROW and two members of the Assembly Transportation Committee: Reps. JOE SANFELIPPO, R-New Berlin, and DEBRA KOLSTE, D-Janesville. The luncheon will take place at UW-Milwaukee’s Waukesha campus. The event will go from 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. with the program from noon to 1 p.m. This is the second of four issue programs in the Milwaukee area from Click for registration info:

*A June 17 breakfast in Kenosha on the booming border economy, sponsored by WAGET as part of the’s Navigating the New Economy series. Features a panel discussion with Revenue Secretary PETER BARCA; economics professor CASSIE LAU of Carthage College; HEATHER WESSLING, vice president of economic development for the Kenosha Area Business Alliance and former president of WEDA; plus state Reps. TOD OHNSTAD, D-Kenosha, and SAMANTHA KERKMAN, R-Salem. Register for free, courtesy of WAGET:

*A June 19 luncheon with JOE SOLMONESE, chief executive officer of the 2020 Democratic National Convention committee. The Newsmaker Luncheon, hosted jointly by the Milwaukee Press Club and, will feature a round of questioning from a panel of journalists: JASON FECHNER, Spectrum News 1; VICTOR JACOBO, CBS58/Telemundo Wisconsin; MAREDITHE MEYER, BizTimes Milwaukee; and MARY SPICUZZA, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. See details:

The UW Board of Regents unanimously elected DREW PETERSEN to serve a one-year term as president. He succeeds JOHN BEHLING, whose term on the board ended in May. The board also elected MICHAEL GREBE as vice president. Petersen, who previously served as vice president and has been on the board since 2013, is the senior vice president of corporate affairs for TDS Telecom. Grebe is the chief legal officer for Aurora Health Care.

Gov. TONY EVERS has appointed MATTHEW ALLEN to serve as the Iowa County district attorney. Allen is currently an assistant district attorney for Iowa County and serves as the county’s corporation counsel, representing and advising the county, its board, and agencies.

Former Gov. JIM DOYLE and Dem strategist TANYA BJORK are hosting an event for AG JOSH KAUL on June 12 in Middleton.

DOYLE also endorsed Dane County Judge JILL KAROFSKY for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The former prosecutor is challenging sitting Supreme Court Justice DANIEL KELLY.

TIM ROGERS announced he will challenge sitting U.S. Rep. GWEN MOORE for her seat representing Wisconsin’s 4th Congressional District. Rogers won the Republican nomination in the district in 2018 but lost to Moore by a wide margin.

MARK SOMMERHAUSER has left the Wisconsin State Journal to serve as communications director and policy researcher at the Wisconsin Policy Forum. Sommerhauser covered the state Capitol for the last four years.

DAVID FLADEBOE, PATRICK HUGHES and ROBERT POOLE have joined the Badger Institute to take roles as a public affairs associate, a corrections consultant and a visiting fellow, respectively. Fladeboe previously served as a leg aide and as state director for Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin. Hughes was previously assistant deputy secretary at the Department of Corrections and served as a senior policy advisor to former Gov. SCOTT WALKER. Poole has advised the RONALD REAGAN, GEORGE H.W. BUSH, BILL CLINTON and GEORGE W. BUSH administrations on infrastructure issues.

For more Names in the News, see subscriber products from earlier in the week plus the press release page at

For upcoming events, see the “Week Ahead” in this product and in your e-mail Monday morning. Click here for the online calendar:

If you have a contribution, e-mail

(from the state Ethics Commission)

Thirty-three changes were made to the lobbying registry in the past 10 days.

Follow this link for the complete list:

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