Attorney General Brad Schimel is not the lawyer for Gov. Scott Walker’s re-election campaign. But, in a stunning breach of faith that displays his extreme partisanship, Schimel is acting as if the Walker campaign were his client.
Schimel and Walker are both Republicans. They are expected to run next fall on the same statewide party ticket. They have every right to endorse one another and campaign together.
But Schimel has no right to use the power of the state Department of Justice to advance Walker’s campaign agenda.
Indeed, he has a duty to avoid precisely this sort of abuse of power.
Unfortunately, Schimel does not understand his role as a state constitutional officer.
That was obvious last week when Schimel and Department of Justice attorneys notified the Wisconsin Supreme Court that they would replace the attorney for the state Department of Public Instruction in a case involving elected Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers.
Evers is one of a number of Democrats who have announced their intention to challenge Walker in the 2018 gubernatorial race.
The lawsuit against Evers was brought by the right-wing Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which is asking the Supreme Court to take the case. The suit seeks to undermine the authority of the superintendent by asking the courts to declare that Evers and department officials must seek the governor’s permission to craft administrative rules.
When a similar case came before the state Supreme Court last year, the justices ruled in favor of Evers. This new suit claims that a recently enacted law requires Evers to now do what the high court said last year he didn’t have to do. But the new law affronts the Wisconsin Constitution, which creates unique statewide elected positions to be administered by those who are chosen by the voters. It is absurd to imagine that constitutional officers must seek permission from the governor in order to do their jobs.
What’s even more absurd is that, when WILL brought its failed lawsuit last year, Schimel’s Department of Justice refused to represent Evers and the Department of Public Instruction. Why? Because Schimel’s Walker-aligned department did not agree with the stance Evers and his department were taking in defense of constitutional governance.
Now, despite that past admission of disagreement with regard to the basic premises of these lawsuits, Schimel and his lawyers are seeking to displace the Department of Public Instruction team representing Evers, and they have indicated that they would support WILL's position.
A DPI spokesman said the department would ask the court to ignore the move by Schimel.
The attorney general’s twists and turns may seem confusing.
But here’s the bottom line: Brad Schimel is playing politics with his position in order to serve Scott Walker’s re-election bid.
If Schimel wants to represent the Walker campaign, he should resign his position and let Wisconsin have a real attorney general. Otherwise, he should abandon the lawless course he has adopted.
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