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Reality Check: Ad Attacks Kloppenburg's Record

Published On: Mar 31 2011 09:36:05 AM CDT
Updated On: Apr 01 2011 10:48:21 AM CDT
MADISON, Wis. -

The Wisconsin Supreme Court race has brought interest groups out against the candidates.

These groups are using old but controversial cases to sling mud.

In this "Reality Check," WISC-TV looked at an ad running against Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg.

An ad being run by the group "Citizens For A Strong America" has a lot to say about Kloppenburg's record, but the group would like to stay in the shadows.

An Internet search shows the group says it is a "diverse coalition of stakeholders" that "promote public policy that reduces tax burdens on families."

An address listed for the group is to a post office box in Beaver Dam. The phone number is for a Middleton number, which has a full mailbox.

As for who runs the group, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign found that the website is registered to a John Connors. His Milwaukee address is in the same building as the tea party organization -- Americans For Prosperity.

"JoAnne Kloppenburg says she has courtroom experience, but Kloppenburg has never been a judge. She's a government lawyer with a record of suing farmers and employers," the narrator in the ad says.

A WISC-TV analysis found that this needs clarification.

It is true that Kloppenburg has never been a judge, but she has been a prosecuting attorney with the attorney general's office since 1989.

As far as her record, Kloppenburg's area of expertise is in environmental law, and who she would sue would be a matter of who has broken state laws related to air or water pollution.

"Kloppenburg is so extreme she even put an 80-year-old farmer in jail for refusing to plant native vegetation on his farm," the ad's narrator says.

A WISC-TV analysis found this to be misleading.

The ad is referring to Jefferson County farmer Wayne Hensler. According to court documents, Hensler's Lake Mills property had been eroding over six years, sending runoff into nearby Rock Lake, breaking state environmental laws.

The Department of Natural Resources, which Kloppenburg represented, gave him a number of years to fix the property, which he refused to do.

He was fined by a judge for ignoring these orders, and the DNR was ordered to do re-seeding to stop the runoff, which Hensler proceeded to plow up.

He was then fined for the cost of the planting and ordered to re-plant the work. Hensler refused to, so a judge sent him to jail for five days.

"Maybe that's why President (Barack) Obama and governors from both political parties would not appoint her to a judgeship," the ad says.

WISC-TV found that is needs clarification.

It is true that Kloppenburg has asked to be appointed to four judgeships, including a recent application to be a federal judge. President Obama nominated former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler for the spot, and previous governors also passed her over for various appeals court positions, but why she wasn't chosen is unclear.

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