Saturday, March 11, 2006

More Verdict Reaction

Rep. Scott Jensen

Jensen delivered this statement to reporters in the hallway outside the courtroom, after the verdict was announced:

"I just want to thank all of our family, my friends and my constituents for the incredible support they've given me over the years. My family and I will be deeply grateful to them forever. They have been amazing with their prayers and their support over the last few years. The only plans I have at the moment are to go home and hug my wife and kids."

Dane County DA Brian Blanchard

Comments from an impromptu press conference Blanchard held with reporters outside the courtroom. See a webcast of the press conference.

"I think the jury's verdict is a fair one. I think it does show that no one's above the law."

On the status of the investigation:

"The matters raised initially by the Wisconsin State Journal in of May 2001 have now been thoroughly investigated. We've set the priorities we felt we had to set with the resources we have. ... We set priorities and I think we've now completed our work in these matters."

Blanchard's other thoughts:

"I think this investigation showed that no one's above the law, that everyone's responsible for their actions, whether they have a position of power and influence or whether they're someone who doesn't have access to those tools. ...

"It was always clear that if there was misconduct here, the responsibility for that would fall on the elected officials who had the power to set the rules. I think the jury here heard a lot of that over the course of three weeks. In any conduct, it's the people who set the rules who are the ones who are responsible. ...

"I was very impressed by a lot of people in the Capitol and around state government who simply answered our questions, even though it was painful -- it put them in a bad light. A number of people, were very impressive -- not just Lyndee Wall, who's gotten a lot of attention, but others, including some who testified here, who simply did what we expect people to do when they've been asked questions by law enforcement -- tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may. ...

"It's kind of a sad day, I think, for Wisconsin. I think these cases have really highlighted the potential for abuse of power. So I don't think it's a happy day for anybody here. I think the jury thought carefully, considered the evidence and returned a fair verdict."

Assembly Speaker John Gard

Assembly Speaker John Gard, who succeeded Jensen in the position after the Waukesha Republican stepped down as a response to the "caucus scandal" allegations, was saddened by the verdict.

"I'm just sad. I'm just sad for Scott, his wife and his kids," he said.

Gard wasn't ready yet to answer questions about Jensen's future in the Assembly and as a member of the powerful Joint Finance Committee.

"Everybody's going to abide by the laws, and, you know, it's too early to know exactly all that stuff ... I'm not going to go down that road, I'm going to let them deal with the toughest day of their life."

Republican Party Executive Director Rick Wiley

Rick Wiley, executive director of the state GOP, called the situation unfortunate, but said it won't hurt Republicans in this election year. "Scott Jensen has been an integral part of the Republican Party, and he's done a good job. ...The criminal justice system has run its course, and we thank Scott Jensen."

He said "obviously losing a Scott Jensen never helps," but the Republican team and candidates will do fine, he said, especially in the Assembly, where a strong majority has been built. "Democrats are going to try to use it, but I don't think they'll be successful."

Democratic Party Chairman Joe Wineke

"You never know instantaneously how things like a criminal trial will affect the next election but it can't be good news for Republicans in the Legislature. ... I don't take any great joy in seeing a public official convicted of felonies.

Wineke was asked if the conviction would be used by Democrats while campaigning in the 2006 election

"I think it is too early to tell -- within a half hour or 45 minutes of the verdict coming down -- to even have a discussion of whether that is going to be good or bad or how that is going to be used would be premature."

Wineke said that though parties have some say over what their candidates do, they don't have complete say over what an individual may or not do in regards to using the issue for campaign purposes.

Does he think it will encourage any more candidates to run on the Dem side?

"If this encourages any more we are going to have a full plate."

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Executive Director Mike McCabe

"It certainly vindicates the prosecutors," said McCabe. "Five years ago almost, they were saying all this was much ado about nothing and this was a witchhunt and the charges would never amount to anything. And now the prosecutors have batted 1.000."

McCabe said the case was about a "raw abuse of power."

"Top leaders in the Capitol from Jensen and Chvala, to Foti and Ladwig, they were the leaders in the Capitol and they were presiding over a crooked system. They were stealing from the taxpayers."

He also said it was about accountability:

"When politicians abuse power they need to be held accountable for that. It doesn't matter if they didn't invent these practices, they certainly perpetuated them and took it all to a new level."

McCabe on Jensen's future:

"I think he heads to prison. I think he definitely should do prison time. The harsher the punishment the stronger the message is sent."

McCabe said the final chapter of the caucus scandal has yet to be written.

"It is important that a message gets sent to the current bosses at the Capitol. This is not the final chapter in this story - the final chapter is still being written. Even though this appears to close the book on the caucus scandal, this is not the end of the story.

"This story is not about a few bad apples, it is about a system that is rotten the core."

Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager:

"I would like to congratulate Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard on a successful prosecution and wish to thank the Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agents and Assistant Attorney General Roy Korte for their integral roles in the prosecution of this case.

"I hope this verdict will signal to all government officials the need to follow state law and will stress the need for clean government, clean campaigns and the essential responsibility to keep official government duties separate from political campaigning.

"The outcome of these landmark convictions must once again impress upon us all the need to keep campaign fundraising and the influence of special interests out of the halls of the State Capitol."


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