GOP Makes Huge Strides in AG Elections

by Ciara Matthews

When Adam Laxalt finally edged out a victory over Ross Miller in Nevada, Republicans had made history.

Laxalt was the last of five Republicans to win state attorney general races in six key races on Tuesday. When they are sworn in there will be more Republican attorneys general – 27 – than at any time in American history.

In addition, Republicans are hailing the election of two women AGs, Cynthia Coffman in Colorado and Leslie Rutledge in Arkansas, bringing their total from one to three.

“Our biggest victory is Nevada because of how much we had to overcome to win that race,” a celebratory Jessica Garrison, executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association, told me.

Laxalt versus Miller was considered “the marquee race in Nevada.” Laxalt’s win, with 46 percent of the vote to Miller’s 45, was the closet AG race of the night.

From the beginning, Laxalt had been considered a long shot. Nevada Political commentator Jon Ralston predicted this race would fall Miller’s way.

“My pledge to you is that I will work just as tirelessly in office as I did on the campaign trail, fighting to protect Nevada’s laws and our Constitution against federal overreach,” Laxalt wrote in an email to supporters. “We will do the things we promised on the campaign – protect Nevada’s most vulnerable, lock away criminals, seek to provide our military families with affordable legal services, continue our efforts to prosecute human trafficking, fight drug addiction and drug crimes, and help eliminate the backlog in rape kits.”

In Arizona, Colorado and Wisconsin, where none of the current Republican attorneys general were on the ballot, new Republicans took their places.

Arizona’s Mark Brnovich, who defeated incumbent Republican AG Tom Horne in the state’s August primary, beat Democratic opponent Felecia Rotellini 53 percent to 46 percent.

This was Rotellini’s second run for attorney general. She lost in 2010 to Horne and many  speculated this election would be her time.

“There are two things that don’t show up on paper,” Brnovich told me in an interview this morning, “and that’s heart and hard work and those things we have a lot of.”

Brnovich plans a “top-to-bottom review of the entire office, to ensure everyone is committing to serving Arizona and keeping families safe.”

He also says he focused on fighting back against the overreach of the Obama administration. “Next time he tries to promulgate job killing regulation, we will be there every step of the way to protect Arizona.”

In Colorado, Cynthia Coffman, chief deputy to term-limited attorney general John Suthers, defeated Democrat Don Quick by 11 percentage points, 52-41. Coffman’s margin of victory was the largest for any statewide race in last night’s election.

 “Over the next four years, I am going to build an office of community initiatives, which will bring the attorney generals office closer to the people of Colorado,” Coffman told supporters during her speech. “There is no higher calling or greater responsibility than being the people’s lawyer, and I am honored to have the opportunity to serve you as your next attorney general.”

Republican Brad Schimel pulled out a 51 percent to 45 percent win over Democrat Susan Happ in Wisconsin. The races focused heavily on the commitment to keeping Wisconsin safe, with Republicans hammering home their argument that Happ has been soft on crime in her time as Jefferson County district attorney.

“The campaign is over, but there is a lot of work to be done,” Schimel said in a statement provided me.  “I put the heroin dealers on notice that they are public enemy number one.” Already, he has spoken with members of the Wisconsin legislature regarding his plans for tackling this public safety challenge.  

Three states gave the GOP a chance to pick up the AGs office, which they were successful in doing in Arkansas and Nevada.

Republican Leslie Rutledge won her race against Democrat Nate Steel 51 to 43. Rutledge’s win makes her the first female to be elected attorney general in the state, and the first time a Republican has held that office since Reconstruction.

Rutledge promised, in her victory speech, to use “grit, determination and love for Arkansas” in her time as AG for the next four years.

Three Nevada News Stations Contribute to Democrat AG Hopeful

by Ciara Matthews

Intermountain West Communications Company and three of its local NBC news stations donated $40,000 to the campaign of Democratic attorney general candidate Ross Miller, according to the latest contribution and expenses report filed by Miller.

KRNV in Reno, KENV in Elko, and KSNV in Las Vegas and their parent company gave $10,000 each, the maximum contribution allowable by law, on Oct. 17, the day before early voting began in the state, the report says.

Miller, Nevada’s current secretary of state, is in a tight race with Republican Adam Laxalt. Laxalt received no money from media companies during the reporting period.

Intermountain West donated to other candidates, including the Democratic candidate for secretary of state, and candidates running in nonpartisan judicial and university board of regents races.

An email request for comment has been sent to Miller campaign manager Jocelyn Steinberg and remains unanswered. Messages requesting comment from Intermountain West and from management at each of the affiliates have also gone unreturned.

“More than half of states allow corporations to give directly to candidates; Nevada is one of them,” Denise Roth Barber, managing director for the National Institute on Money in State Politics tells me. “So, to the extent that they can give to candidates, they usually do.”

The Institute operates, which allows for a comprehensive search of contributions to candidates for public office made by media outlets. A search of these numbers indicates that a little more than $1 million has been given to state and local candidates in Nevada since 1990.

“We do not take a position regarding the question of the ethics behind this practice, but we do believe the public should know the donations are being made,” Barber says.

Laxalt campaign consultant Robert Uithoven provided the following statement very late Monday night:

The fact that local television news stations are shoveling bundles of cash by way of maximum campaign contributions to a political candidate is appalling, irresponsible and shameful. The attorney general’s race in Nevada is the biggest, most-expensive race of the 2014 cycle. These NBC stations have been reporting on this race and never once disclosed the fact that they are in bed with one of the candidates. It’s really unbelievable.

In a detailed report in 2010, CNN reported that News Corporation, Fox News’ parent company, had contributed $1 million to the Republican Governors Association.

CNN acknowledged in its report that its own parent company had made political donations and that News Corp. was “not alone among media corporations who donated to political parties and candidates,” Republicans and Democrats.

The Center for Responsive Politics examined the practice of media companies contributing to political organizations and candidates. They found “the parent companies of six major media outlets have all donated anywhere from five to seven figures to political organizations during the 2010 election cycle alone.”

However, “Campaign donations made by media companies and the bigwigs who run them were primarily funneled to Democratic campaigns and organizations,” according to a look at those donations by Huffington Post in late 2012.

Capitol City project took a look at these contribution numbers earlier this year and found not much had changed since the last election with the vast majority of money funneled from news outlets to political causes benefitting Democrats.

Did Bilbray Tell the FEC One Thing and Do Another

by Ciara Matthews

Erin Bilbray, the co-founder of a political action group, may have violated the terms of an agreement with the Federal Election Commission by using the resources of the group in her bid for Congress.

Bilbray, the Democratic candidate for Nevada’s third congressional district, had been told by the FEC she could continue to work as a paid consultant for a political organization, if she did not “use Emerge Nevada’s resources for campaign-related activities if she becomes a candidate.”

In a recent video produced and released by Emerge Nevada, Bilbray thanks the group she helped found for its help in every step of her campaign.

Chris Gober, an Austin, Texas-based election law specialist, former counsel to the Republican National Committee and political operative for George W. Bush, said he thinks both Bilbray and Emerge Nevada are violating campaign law.

“This video presents very strong evidence that Bilbray is violating the ‘use of Emerge Nevada’s resources’ condition of her agreement with the FEC,” Gober says.

Bilbray campaign manager Adriana Martinez, also a co-founder of Emerge Nevada, has not returned multiple calls and email requests for comment.

A message left for Emerge Nevada has also not yet been returned.

Bilbray founded Emerge Nevada to change “the face of Nevada politics by identifying, training and encouraging women to run for office, get elected and to seek higher office,” according to its website.

She had served as executive director since 2006.

Bilbray originally registered the group as 501(c)4 non-profit organization with the Internal Revenue Service. In 2011, however, the IRS revoked the group’s tax-exempt status because it found the organization was “set up specifically to cultivate Democratic candidates,” according to the New York Times.

Emerge Nevada reorganized and according to the FEC:

Emerge Nevada is a non-profit Nevada corporation holding tax-exempt stautus as a ‘political organization’ under section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code. The organization is not registered with the [Federal Elections] Commission, and it raises and spends funds that are not subject to the contribution limits and source restrictions of the Federal Election Campaign Act (‘FECA’)

 “Because Emerge is not registered with the FEC,” Gober told me, “the organization is legally constrained to only trying to influence state and local races.”

Because of that constraint, when Bilbray first considered running for a federal office in 2013 she wrote the FEC asking if she could step down as executive director, but continue working at a salary of $5,000 a month as a consultant.

The FEC responded to her request saying, “The Commission concludes that, under the terms described in your request, Ms. Bilbray-Kohn may serve as a paid consultant to Emerge Nevada after becoming a candidate.”

Bilbray, the FEC said, could not call upon Emerge Nevada for campaign resources. And without registration with the FEC, the group is not permitted by law to offer help to a candidate for federal office in excess of one thousand dollars, according to Gober.

“Every time that I need a group for a kick-off, or a fundraiser or political event, it is the Emerge network that comes there ready to battle, ready to be there and ready to support me,” Bilbray says in the Emerge Nevada video. “I could not do this without Emerge.”

“It appears as if Bilbray told the FEC one thing, but then turned around and did the opposite when she thought nobody was looking,” Gober says. “To add insult to injury, her biggest mistake may have been admitting it on video.”

Where the AG Races Stand Heading into Election Day

by Ciara Matthews

Republicans tomorrow night have a chance to win as many as five of six key attorney general races in Arizona, Colorado, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Nevada and New Mexico.

Recent polls show Republican Mark Brnovich leading Democrat Felecia Rotellini in Arizona by nine points, in a race that appears all but decided.

The AG race seems to be solidly breaking the GOP’s way in Colorado, with Cynthia Coffman leading Democrat Don Quick by seven points. This in a state where Republicans are in a fight to the finish for governor and a U.S. Senate seat.

Republican Brad Schimel is facing a closer race in Wisconsin, but still leads his Democratic opponent, Susan Happ, by four percentage points in recent polling. This race has largely been over-shadowed by the gubernatorial election in which Gov. Scott Walker is seeking a second term after surviving the 2012 recall effort against him.

Arkansas Republican Leslie Rutledge faced criticism regarding voter registration and questionable emails she sent while working for the Department of Human Services. Still, she leads her Democratic opponent, Nate Steel, by 4 percent in the latest PPP survey.

Hopes have been high in Nevada, as Republican turnout in early voting has far surpassed previous mid-term election years. Recent poll numbers show Republican Adam Laxalt closing the gap on Democratic candidate Ross Miller, the current secretary of state.

Nevada will likely be the closest of all the AG races. The grandson of former Nevada Senator Paul Laxalt has overcome criticism for his lack of political experience and weathered a flood of negative advertising to make Democrats nervous going into Election Day.

Only in New Mexico, where Susan Riedel has thus far been unable to come close to her opponent, Democrat Hector Balderas, in polling does a Republican win look out of reach.

Riedel has the support of New Mexico’s Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. Balderas, however, has far surpassed Riedel in fundraising, outspending her 4-1 on television advertising.

Balderas also has history on his side. Republicans haven’t won an AG’s race in the state in 28 years.

Five wins would mean 27 Republican attorneys general, the greatest number in American history.

Those wins, Scott Will, political director of the Republican Attorneys General Association, told me will “ensure an important layer of accountability on the final two years of the Obama administration.”

Giuliani Lends His Voice To AG Candidate Cahill in Final Push

by Ciara Matthews

New York attorney general candidate, Republican John Cahill, has enlisted former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to help in the final push before Election Day.

“America’s Mayor” has recorded a robocall for the AG hopeful telling voters, “I’ve known John in tough times and good times. He’s a man who can handle any crisis.”

Cahill is challenging incumbent attorney general, Democrat Eric Schneiderman.

Hinting to Schneiderman’s involvement in the controversial break-up of the Moreland Commission – which was established to root-out corruption in government – Giuliani says, “John has what it takes to tackle the crime and corruption in our state.”

The Cahill campaign tells me the calls are targeting voters statewide who are registered as Republican, Conservative or Independent.

Schimel Makes Final Plea

by Ciara Matthews

Brad Schimel, Republican candidate for Wisconsin attorney general, calls himself “law enforcement’s choice” in an open letter to Badger State voters his campaign released this morning.

“90 elected law enforcement leaders in Wisconsin, including ten elected Democratic sheriffs and district attorneys and one Independent have put their trust in me as the right choice to lead the Department of Justice,” Schimel wrote.

In the letter, Schimel attacks his opponent, Democrat Susan Happ, for wanting to use the office “to pursue an activist agenda … picking which laws to enforce.”

Schimel goes on to tout his 25 years as a prosecutor. “I have worked thousands of cases, and kept thousands of criminals off the street…. I’ll put my track record as a tough prosecutor up against anyone in the state.”

Happ will be in Milwaukee today holding the “Happ Harley Ride” encouraging voters to support her campaign.

A recent Marquette University Law School poll shows Schimel leading Happ 43 percent to 39 percent among likely voters.

McCain Cuts Radio Spot for AZ AG Candidate Brnovich

by Ciara Matthews

Republican attorney general candidate Mark Brnovich has released a radio ad featuring Arizona’s senior U.S. Senator, John McCain.

“As a career prosecutor, Mark Brnovich has the experience to keep Arizona families safe,” McCain says in the 30-sec ad. “Whether from child predators, violent cartel members, or scam artists who target Arizona seniors.”

McCain also plays to the unpopularity of the president saying, “Mark is also the only candidate who will stand up to the Obama administration.”

Brnovich is running against Democrat Felecia Rotellini. He beat incumbent Republican Tom Horne in the primary election in August.

More False Claims From Nevada Congressional Candidate Bilbray

by Ciara Matthews

Democrat Erin Bilbray, who has claimed a phantom endorsement on her resume, asserts she joined her husband as the founder of a free children’s health care clinic.

Bilbray claims on her campaign website:

Together with my husband Noah, a pediatrician, we started Nevada’s first and only nonprofit dedicated to providing free health care to the children of Southern Nevada.

An examination of business and legal documents, however, finds the Democratic candidate for Nevada’s Third Congressional District is in no way associated, other than by marriage, with the clinic.

The initial officers list for Clinics in Schools, now Children’s Free Clinic of Southern Nevada, filed with the Nevada Secretary of State includes her husband, Noah Kohn, but not Bilbray.

Tax returns dating back to 2009 also do not include Bilbray as an officer or in any official capacity with the children’s clinic.

In the interviews for multiple news stories that have been done since the opening of the clinic, Kohn has never recognized Bilbray’s role with the clinic. Nor, is she mentioned anywhere on the clinic website.

Bilbray campaign manager Adriana Martinez has not returned an email request for comment.

Bilbray also says her husband, “now serves as the medical director of the Children’s Free Clinic of Southern Nevada.” However, the clinic closed in August of this year and is currently in default with the secretary of state for not paying its business dues.

I was given the option to leave a message in generic voicemail box when I called the clinic for comment.

The clinic’s closing may have been a result of Kohn taking 69 percent of contributions the “non-profit” received in salary. Of the more than $245,000 in donations to the clinic for operating expenses, Kohn paid himself $168,000.

Bilbray argues the twenty years she has worked to “increase civic engagement and to expand opportunity,” is reason to send her to Congress. But, it appears that at least some of that engagement has been falsified in attempt to convince voters of her bona fides as a public servant.

Bilbray Claims Endorsement She Never Received

by Ciara Matthews

Erin Bilbray claims on both her campaign website and Facebook page the Henderson Police Officers Association has endorsed the Democrat to represent Nevada’s third congressional district.

The Police Association says that isn’t true.

I have reached out to HPOA to confirm first-hand the endorsement was never given and to find out if they will be asking Bilbray to remove the claim from her website. I have yet received a return call.

Bilbray campaign manager Adriana Martinez told me she plans to look through the endorsement letters to determine if they received one from HPOA.

“If there was an error, I will rectify this as soon as possible,” Martinez told me.

Bilbray is running against incumbent Republican Joe Heck who was elected to the third district in 2010.

Early in the campaign, Democrats mobilized for Bilbray behind a 2,700 ballot lead in voter registration. The campaign faltered leading Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call to rate the district “safe Republican” and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to declined to fund airtime on her behalf.

Mixed Signals, Different Outcomes Predicted in Nevada AG Race

by Ciara Matthews

What should Nevada voters make of the discrepancy between unprecedented Republican voter turnout in early voting and poll numbers indicating a lead for many Democrats, one showing Democratic attorney general candidate Ross Miller with an 11-point lead?

Approach with caution, David Damore, associate professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, says.

“Any public poll done in Nevada should be viewed with skepticism,” Damore told me.

The sample size is based on rough estimates of what turnout will look like. But, as we are seeing already, turnout so far is has been neither consistent with previous midterm elections, nor something anyone predicted.

“The degree to which these models diverge from reality,” Damore continued, rather professorially, “creates systematic error that undermines the validity of the results.”

Taken on their own, the unprecedented turnout numbers for Republican ballots and sagging Democratic voter enthusiasm has political reporter Jon Ralston predicting a wave of GOP wins on November 4.

“Certainly, there is not much good news for the Democrats in the early voting numbers,” Damore said, “which, in my view, is a function of Democratic malaise brought upon by no top-of-the-ticket candidate and (Sen. Harry) Reid’s attention being devoted elsewhere.”

Democrats are clinging to the results of a Global Strategy Group poll – commissioned by an unnamed Nevada gaming company – showing on October 23, Miller with an 11-point lead over Republican Adam Laxalt, the only poll giving Miller such a wide lead.

A Las Vegas Review-Journal poll taken two weeks before early voting began showed Miller up by five on Laxalt.

A week later, the Laxalt campaign released it own polling showing Miller leading by two percentage points. Last week, a Republican Attorneys General Association poll had the Laxalt deficit cut to one point.

“Even Democratic voters, many who have military members and veterans in their family, are telling me they are voting for me,” Laxalt told me in an email statement. “The early vote trends are encouraging, but we still have a lot of work to do and there are a lot of votes yet to be cast, so we won’t rest until polls close next Tuesday night.”

The Miller campaign has not returned a request for comment.

Relative Unknowns in WI AG Race Pound ‘Soft on Crime’ Theme

by Ciara Matthews

Same accusation, competing campaigns. Three words. Soft on crime.

Brad Schimel, the Republican attorney general candidate, and his Democratic challenger, Susan Happ, have dug deep into each other’s prosecutorial history to convince Wisconsin voters the other is ill-suited for the job.

“[Schimel] failed to protect our kids as a prosecutor,” a television ad paid for by the pro-Happ Committee for Justice and Fairness says. “How can we ever trust Schimel as attorney general?”

“[Happ] defended a child molester, asking a judge to go easy because the perpetrator assaulted children in his own home,” a newly released ad from Schimel contends. “Brad Schimel prosecutes predators. Susan Happ profits from them.”

Back and forth Schimel, Waukesha County’s district attorney and Happ, Jefferson County’s district attorney, have gone. The problem for both of them is a lot of voters have not gotten any clear or distinctive message from either one.

“One thing that is clear in this race,” Jason Stein, political reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, said, “is that most voters don’t know either candidate well.”

Lack of recognition, Stein said, may give outside factors – especially the race for governor – an outsized influence on the outcome of the attorney general race.

Still, the Schimel campaign intends to pound Happ for “putting politics ahead of public safety.” Expect the Happ campaign to do more of the same

“Brad’s grassroots organization and his hard work throughout the campaign will prove to be a difference maker,” Johnny Koremenos, Schimel’s campaign manager told me in an email. “He puts public safety ahead of politics and voters are coming around to the same conclusion as 89 sheriffs and district attorneys as well as the largest law-enforcement organizations: Schimel’s the best choice for the state’s top cop.”

The Happ campaign has not returned a call for comment.

Early Vote Totals Look Promising for GOP in Nevada

by Ciara Matthews

Early voting is underway in the Silver State, and if the turnout numbers so far are any indication of things to come, Democrats are in for a tough night on November 4.

After only three days, Republicans are leading Democrats by more than 5,100 votes statewide.

“This is not good news for the Democrats since they traditionally win early voting,” David Damore, associate professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas told me. “If they do not recover by the middle of next week, then I think folks like [Democratic attorney general candidate, Ross] Miller will be in full panic mode.” 

In Clark County, where elections are won and lost in the state, the numbers look even grimmer for Democrats.

Republicans have just a 300-vote lead in Clark County. But considering Democrats had a more than 8,000 vote lead over Republicans after the first week of early voting in the 2010 midterm election, the slim early lead this time looks huge for the GOP.

“Clark numbers are looking more than ominous for the Democrats: They look disastrous so far,” political reporter Jon Ralston wrote. “If this keeps up, I don’t know how any of their statewide candidates survive.”

The GOP is far out-performing its registration numbers, while Democrats are under-preforming, not just in Clark but statewide.

So far, Democrats make up about 37 percent of votes cast, while accounting for 40 percent of active voters. The GOP is pulling in 46 percent of early and mail-in ballots compared to statewide registration of nearly 35 percent.

There is a lot of early voting left. But these numbers, coupled with a recent trend finding Republicans waiting until Election Day to cast their ballots, might be the signal of big things to come for the GOP.

New Polling Shows GOP Lead in Arizona and Colorado AG Races

by Ciara Matthews

A new poll out in Arizona today shows Republican Mark Brnovich leading Democrat Felecia Rotellini 38.6 percent to 31.6 in the race for attorney general.

In Colorado, a newly released survey by the Democratic polling firm PPP shows Republican Cynthia Coffman with 14-point lead on her Democratic opponent, Don Quick. Coffman is at 46 percent, while Quick trails at 32 percent.

‘Panic time’ for Democrats in Nevada?

by Ciara Matthews

Republican voters have little reason to head to the polls in Nevada. With neither U.S. Senate seat on the ballot and Gov. Sandoval maintaining a commanding lead over his Democratic opponent, there is little to be excited about.

And yet, Republicans are turning out in higher numbers than Democrats around the state, and far outperforming their voter-registration numbers.

The concern Democrats should have about this election has been summed up by political reporter Jon Ralston in a tweet:

Former Commanding Officer for Laxalt Gets into AG Race Mix

by Ciara Matthews

An infuriated former commanding officer for Republican attorney general candidate Adam Laxalt is blasting opponent Ross Miller’s attacks on Laxalt’s military record.

“To hear someone say that anybody in my unit did nothing but push paper, is so clearly offensive to me, it borders on anger,” retired Navy captain Brian MacKenzie told me.

MacKenzie was reacting to comments Miller made during last Friday’s debate with Laxalt.

“When you say you were prosecuting terrorists in Iraq, is that true?” Miller asked Laxalt. “Doesn’t seem to be. Seems like you were processing paperwork.”

“Do you have any idea what it is like to go into a warzone?” Laxalt shot back. “I take great offense that you are attacking my military record.”

Miller’s attacks on Laxalt’s time as a volunteer during Operation Iraqi Freedom has drawn national attention.

While most of specifics regarding his work in Iraq are classified, the role and responsibility of Laxalt and the unit in which he served, Task Force 134 (TF 134), is publicly available.

In his legal analysis of the War in Iraq, retired Navy Captain and JAG officer Brian Bill wrote:

Within the TF 134 legal office there was a [Central Criminal Court of Iraq] liaison office, which was tasked to prepare cases for eventual prosecution at CCCI Attorneys within that office would receive the files forwarded to it from the Magistrate Cell and determine, based on their experience with the Court, whether prosecution was worthwhile…. If the CCCI liaison office attorney didn’t act as the prosecutor, he or she was certainly a very active “shadow” prosecutor.”

MacKenzie said Laxalt fit the very definition of a very active shadow prosecutor.

“There was not a legal piece that happened during his tenure there that didn’t have his fingerprints on it,” MacKenzie said. “[Laxalt] was an integral part of a system designed to prosecute those we could and detain those we couldn’t.”

MacKenzie previously came to Laxalt’s defense for his work in Task Force 134. He and Major General Doug Stone, who served as MacKenzie’s commanding officer, took on a tweet by Dana Gentry, executive producer for Ralston Reports.

Responding to a Laxalt campaign ad in which the candidate claims he “helped put away terrorists and war criminals,” Gentry tweeted, “What did he do? Tuck them in for bed?”

“Ralston shamelessly reinforced these offensive comments, even going further, suggesting there is ‘no evidence’ Task Force 134 helped to put away terrorists,” MacKenzie and Stone wrote. “These attacks are false, malicious, and dishonor not only Mr. Laxalt, but the multitude of American servicemen and servicewomen who conducted this critical work.”

AG Candidate Schimel Gets NRA Nod

by Ciara Matthews

While at a campaign stop at Lauer Custom Weaponry in Lake Hallie, Wisconsin, GOP attorney general candidate Brad Schimel accepted the endorsement of the National Rifle Association.

“It’s not about hunting; it’s about liberty,” Schimel said. “We have plenty of gun laws in the state. I will enforce the laws as written.”

 “Brad Schimel will oppose any attempt to infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.” NRA Political Victory Fund Chairman Chris W. Cox said in a released statement. “In contrast, his opponent has said she supports additional restrictions on right to carry permit holders.”

Schimel’s opponent, Democrat Susan Happ, has called for legislation requiring private firearm sellers to conduct background checks.

In response, Shimel said in a statement, criminals ”don’t fill out government forms. The problem is not that we don’t have enough gun laws, it’s that laws regarding felons in possession of guns are not fully prosecuted in the most violent area of the state.”

Iowa GOP Candidate Releases Two New Ads

by Ciara Matthews

Republican candidate for Iowa attorney general, Adam Gregg, has released a new radio and a new television ad for his campaign.

The television ad, “Fighting for Iowa” keeps to Gregg’s positive message of protecting “Iowa families, Iowa farmers, and our Constitutional freedoms.”

The radio spot titled “Voice” features Iowa farmer Mark Kenney who states he was “disappointed” in current Attorney General Tom Miller for refusing to join a lawsuit challenging a California law that, according to the ad, “would severely harm Iowa’s egg producers.”

Gregg is running against Democrat Tom Miller.

Wisconsin AG Candidate Under Fire for Another Deal With Accused Child Molester

by Ciara Matthews

Jefferson County District Attorney and Democratic candidate for attorney general in Wisconsin, Susan Happ, is under fire again for a deal her office made with a man charged with six felony counts involving sex with a child.

Court documents show Happ’s office dropped four of the six charges against Josiah Onasch in exchange for a guilty plea on to two counts of incest with his 13-year-old and 15-year-old sisters.

In a police interview (which I have obtained) Onasch took “full responsibility” for the multiple sexual contacts he had with one of his sisters, but denies any contact with the second.

Although the maximum sentence for an incest conviction is 40 years for each count, assistant district attorneys recommended Onasch be sentence to a total of five years in prison, according to the court records.

A judge sentenced him to one year in jail and 12 years probation.

Calls to Happ’s office for comment have not been returned.

Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol told me he could not understand why Happ’s office agreed to drop most of the charges, given Onasch’s confession.

“It doesn’t make a great deal of sense why [Happ] would amend [the charges] especially if you have an admission,” Gerol said. “Why would you charge so many offenses just to sell it out for so few?”

“What the outcome tells me,” Gerol continued, “is that in the courage of [Happ’s] convictions, she doesn’t believe that a brother who violates his much younger and vulnerable sisters deserves more than five years.”

Happ also came under heavy criticism last month for a plea agreement her office struck with an accused child sex offender to whom Happ and her husband previously sold property.

Adding a Layer of Accountability to Judicial Appointments in Tennessee

by Ciara Matthews

“You want two things in judges,” Justin Owen, president of the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a told me in a recent interview. “You want them to be independent and you want them to be accountable.”

This is the goal of supporters of the effort to pass Amendment 2 to the Tennessee constitution. Amendment 2 enjoys bipartisan support with current Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen endorsing it.

If voters pass Amendment 2 this November, the Tennessee general assembly would have the authority to confirm a governor’s nomination of any supreme court and appellate-court judges.

Currently, the governor selects state judicial replacements from a group of nominees presented to him by a selection committee. Justices go on to serve an eight-year term, after which they may seek another term in a general voter-retention election.

Under this system, only one supreme-court justice, since 1971, has been removed from the bench.

In August, all three justices on the ballot were retained, each garnering more than 55 percent of the vote.

“This adds an important new check and balance on the current system,” John Crisp, communications director for the Yes on 2 Committee, told me.

Amendment 2 challenges the legitimacy of the retention election process, something several lawsuits — including one brought by the Beacon Center — failed to do, Owen says.

The Tennessee constitution simply says, “The judges of the supreme court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state.” Owen and others have argued the current process of retention elections does not satisfy this requirement.

“The question then became: Do you continue the court battles to fight the system, or do you work to amend the constitution?” Owen explains.

Support for Amendment 2 is far from unanimous.

Former Democratic nominee for governor, John Jay Hooker, agrees the current method for judicial selection is unconstitutional, but wants the selection process and not the constitution changed.

“My great grandfather was part of the constitution convention in 1871,” Hooker told me. “They debated for three days about whether judges should be appointed like the federal system or elected. Their decision is very clear.”

“The state constitution says that judges shall be elected by the qualified voters,” Hooker told Tennessee Watchdog reporter Chris Butler. “It’s pretty hard to misunderstand that language.”

This Tennessee Plan adopted by the legislature in 1971 allowing the governor to appoint judges is “preposterous” and has always been illegal, Hooker says.

“It’s like someone steals a car, gives it to you, you know it’s stolen, but you drive it any way,” he says.

Hooker, however, thinks the language of Amendment 2 makes it difficult for voters to understand what language in the state constitution they are being asked to change.

“Shall Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution of Tennessee,” the ballot question begins, “be amended by deleting the first and second sentences…. ”

“They are being asked if they want to change Article Six, Section 3, but aren’t even being given what the language is,” he says.

But, Crisp argues that, “it would be like reading a book on the ballot” if the constitutional language relating to all the proposed amendments were given to voters at the polls.

“With four constitutional amendments on the ballot, I think the legislature decided to present all of the amendments as directly as they could, with the replacement language clearly spelled out for voters to review,” he countered. 

Hooker argues Tennessee should adopt the direct election process currently utilized by 22 other states across the country. 

Palin Endorses AG Hopefuls in Four States

by Ciara Matthews

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has newly endorsed four Republican candidates for attorney general.

Leslie Rutledge of Arkansas, Adam Laxalt of Nevada, Ken Paxton of Texas, and Mark Brnovich of Arizona each received a public show of support from the former Republican vice-presidential candidate. 

Palin announced the endorsements on her Facebook page:

While most of the focus leading into 2014 elections has been on the country’s life and death fight for our future with a conservative majority serving in the U.S. Senate, there are other offices we need to count on to put a stop to the liberal Obama agenda. In individual states, good Attorney Generals have led the legal fight against Obamacare, to protect religious liberties and states’ right, and to uphold other imperative core Constitutional principles. Here are four conservative Attorney General candidates I’m supporting. They will continue the fight for all of us! 

Rutledge in Arkansas took to Twitter to express her appreciation for Palin’s endorsement.