State Rep. Joel Kleefisch’s (R-Oconomowoc) proposal to limit child support payments – a plan benefitting one of his wealthy contributors – led him to apologize in January to none other than WTMJ talker Charlie Sykes for embarrassing Republicans in the state. But this wasn’t the former WISN-TV reporter’s first brush with scandal. We collected other […]
State Rep. Joel Kleefisch’s (R-Oconomowoc) proposal to limit child support payments – a plan benefitting one of his wealthy contributors – led him to apologize in January to none other than WTMJ talker Charlie Sykes for embarrassing Republicans in the state. But this wasn’t the former WISN-TV reporter’s first brush with scandal. We collected other gaffes and goof-ups by the lawmaker and husband of Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and rated them on our (un)patented Scale of Chagrin.
As a lawmaker, Kleefisch sponsors a bill requiring sex offenders to display fluorescent green license plates. “For so long, child sex predators have been watching our children,” he says at a public hearing, “and this gives us an opportunity to watch them back.”
EMBARRASSMENT LEVEL: 1.5 for awkward use of syntax in the presence of the noun phrase “child sex predators”
A Kleefisch bill calls for instituting a hunting season for Sandhill cranes, which he refers to as the “rib-eyeof the sky.”
EMBARRASSMENT LEVEL: 2.0 for failed legislation that makes him look like – here it comes – a lame duck
Kleefisch twice plagiarizes the words of three Republican congressmen in a total of two press releases hailing the Working Families Flexibility Act. To deflect criticism, a Kleefisch aide takes responsibility for the flub, then adds that all of the representatives approved the use of their quotes, retroactively.
EMBARRASSMENT LEVEL: 2.5 for offering up a sacrificial staffer
Another Kleefisch quote lands with a thud. This time, he says from the Assembly floor that “Sexuality among youth isn’t a right. In fact, it’s a crime.” Although underage sexual intercourse is indeed a crime in Wisconsin, the standard definition of “sexuality” encompasses far more.
EMBARRASSMENT LEVEL: 3.0 for crimes against diction
WISN-TV insiders tell Milwaukee Magazine that then-reporter Kleefisch was reprimanded after threatening a parking security company with negative coverage – after the firm illegally booted his car.
EMBARRASSMENT LEVEL: 3.5 for unethical and retaliatory journalism
A division of the Oconomowoc-based trucking, plumbing and excavating company Herr Corp. receives five citations for overtreating fields with human waste, and Kleefisch attempts to intervene on the company’s behalf. “Why is the DNR giving Herr five citations,” he asks, “and why can’t two or three be taken away as a show of good faith?”
EMBARRASSMENT LEVEL: 4.0 for forgetting to flush
Insiders at WISN again inform the magazine of a flap involving Kleefisch. This time, station bosses scolded the reporter for failing to disclose that his own mother was a distributor for an algae diet product he promoted in an on-air report.
EMBARRASSMENT LEVEL: 4.5 for dragging algae – and his mother – through the mud
In perhaps the worst gaffe to date, news reports reveal that a top Kleefisch donor, Michael Eisenga, helped to write a bill reducing child support payments for some parents, including himself. Kleefisch blamed the scandal on “misinformation” but withdrew the bill anyway and later apologized on Sykes’ show, observing, “Perception is reality.”
EMBARRASSMENT LEVEL: 5.0 for forgetting that a politician’s job is to kiss babies, not take candy from them