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Panel freezes judge's 'John Doe' injunction; 29 lawmakers to call it quits; 10 more Wisconsin stories

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Panel freezes judge's 'John Doe' injunction; 29 lawmakers to call it quits; 10 more Wisconsin stories
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

A John Doe investigation is back on concerning the recall election campaigns of Gov. Scott Walker and GOP state senators.

A three-judge federal appeals panel in Chicago has ordered a stay of Tuesday's injunction by Federal Judge Rudolph Randa which halted the probe. Observers said Randa's ruling was a huge victory for the Republican Walker, who's been dogged by critics as he runs for re-election this fall and possibly for president in 2016.


The appellate panel said the John Doe prosecutors can keep the evidence they've gathered over the past two years, saying Randa was premature in ordering that it be destroyed. However, the appeals court said Randa's order could be reinstated if it's shown that a separate appeal from prosecutors was frivolous.

That one said the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office was immune from the lawsuit filed against it by the Wisconsin Club for Growth. That group is a main target of the John Doe probe, which is looking into alleged illegal campaign coordination between outside groups and Republican recall election candidates from 2011-and-'12 -- including Walker.

If Wednesday's stay is lifted, the court said prosecutors could ask for another one. The Club for Growth is not commenting on the new development. Prosecutors have not commented, either. Meanwhile, Judge Randa agreed Wednesday to let five media groups enter the case, as they try to unseal hundreds of pages of court filings. All sides were given a week to file briefs which explain their positions.

Exodus of incumbent lawmakers blamed on contentious Capitol environment

MADISON -- It's been decades since we've seen so many Wisconsin legislators step down. Twenty-two of the 99 Assembly members have said they won't seek re-election to their current posts this fall. That's the most in 32 years.

Seven of the 33 senators are bowing out after this year, the most in about 60 years.

Marquette political science professor Charles Franklin says the mass exodus comes after a tumultuous four years in the Republican-controlled Legislature. He says it will be interesting to see if the heavy turnover results in a change in the level of conflict and animosity among the two parties.

Franklin says one thing you won't see is a lot of competitive contests come November. The 2011 redistricting loaded most districts with Republican voters. Franklin says any strong disagreements among legislative candidates should come in the partisan primaries in August and even then, disputes will probably be worked out before more than one name gets on a party ballot.

Most of those leaving are getting out of public office altogether. Some, like Janesville Senate Democrat Tim Cullen, lament that there's no longer room for compromise on the major issues. Others, like Sheboygan Senator Joe Leibham, are running for higher office.

On Wednesday, Assembly Republican Steve Nass of Whitewater said he would seek a promotion to the Senate this fall, running for the seat vacated by Elkhorn Republican Neal Kedzie.

Eau Claire Regis grad is Target's interim leader

EAU CLAIRE -- Another former Wisconsinite will try to right the ship at Target. John Mulligan, who grew up in Eau Claire, has become the interim president and CEO of the nation's third-largest retail chain.

He replaces Milwaukee area native Gregg Steinhafel, who departed earlier this week, mainly over Target's customer data breach when hackers broke in during the last holiday shopping season. Mulligan will at least temporarily hold the top spot at Target, where he's been for 18 years.

He joined the Minneapolis-based company as a financial analyst in 1996, and was most recently its chief financial officer. Mulligan graduated from Eau Claire Regis High School in 1983, and later earned a bachelor's degree from U-W Madison. He also has a master's of business administration from the University of Minnesota.

Five finalists named for UW-Green Bay chancellor's chair

GREEN BAY -- Five finalists have been named for the chancellor's opening at U-W Green Bay and none are from Wisconsin.

University System President Ray Cross announced the finalists Wednesday, after they were endorsed by almost two dozen members of a search-and-screen committee.

Two candidates are from Illinois -- Provost and vice president David Glassman of Bradley University in Peoria, and arts-and-sciences dean Aldemaro Romero Junior of Southern Illinois at Edwardsville. The other finalists for the Green Bay opening are Beth Rushing, a vice president and dean of faculty at Saint Mary's College in Maryland, senior vice president Gayle Ormiston of Marshall in Huntington West Virginia and North Carolina-Wilmington Chancellor Gary Miller.

All five are appearing in public forums on the Green Bay campus through May 16th. They'll be interviewed May 28th. The new chancellor will replace Tom Harden, who departs in August.

State's poverty rate falling, but still worse than pre-2007

MADISON -- Poverty in Wisconsin continues to drop but the rates are still higher than before the Great Recession, according to a new U-W Madison study.

The study found that 10.2 percent of state residents were in poverty as of 2012. That's much lower than the federal government's official rate of 12.8 percent. The difference is that the U-W study considers the impact of tax-funded benefits, like food assistance and refundable tax credits which don't require certain levels of income.

Timothy Smeeding of the UW Institute for Research on Poverty says Wisconsin has a safety net that enhances low earnings for families, puts food on the table, and encourages self-reliance. But the report said the safety net has shrunk due to the recovery, and cutbacks in recession-related tax credits. The UW said the 2012 poverty rate for children was 11 percent statewide, and just over 6 percent for the elderly.

The study said 10 counties in northwest Wisconsin had poverty rates higher than the statewide figure and so did Milwaukee and Dane counties.

Most counties in the eastern third of the state were better off than the state as a whole, along with much of west central Wisconsin.

New federal order requires rail-shippers disclose cargo in advance

An emergency order from the US Transportation Department Wednesday means railroads will now have to let emergency management officials know if they are shipping crude oil through their state.

Wisconsin is among those affected, as shippers send highly-combustible crude from the Bakken fields through the Badger State to East Coast refineries.

Oak Creek Fire Chief Tom Rosandich says millions of gallons go through Milwaukee County each month.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has analyzed federal data about train accidents and it found nine trains spilled crude oil in the Badger State since 2012, causing over $25,000 in damages. Six of the spills took place at Portage, including one in February when a loose or missing valve caused 7,500 gallons of crude to leak out.

Wisconsin Emergency Management has training sessions around the state to help local officials deal with crude oil train mishaps. A dozen sessions are scheduled from now through the end of June.

Battle lines already forming over school task force recommendations

MADISON -- Wisconsin lawmakers have made it clear they'll have partisan battles over how the state should help its 259 rural school districts over the next two years.

Meanwhile, the people who run those schools plead that lawmakers do something in the session that begins in January. Democrats held a news conference Wednesday to say that this week's recommendations from a bi-partisan task force on rural schools don't go far enough and they put out their own suggestions.

Among other things, they said the state's school aid formula needs a lot more than the minor tweaks suggested in the report from GOP task force chairman Rob Swearingen of Rhinelander. Democrats said the current formula penalizes smaller districts, plus those with large numbers of vacation properties.

Rhinelander school superintendent Kelli Jacobi said her district cut $11.5 million over the last 11 years just to keep its budget balanced.

Assembly Democrat Mandy Wright of Wausau said many rural schools don't have technical education classes or ag programs, at a time when welders and future farm leaders are badly needed. She also said many rural students don't have access to higher learning opportunities, and those going to college start at a great disadvantage.

Baraboo Assembly Democrat Fred Clark notes that declining enrollments are a problem. Swearingen said the ideas from his task force are a step in the right direction, and they could have "serious traction" in the next session.

His report included calls for more busing dollars and more high-speed Internet in rural schools.

Tribes seek to overturn stay on night-hunting of whitetails

The state Justice Department told a federal appeals court Wednesday why it should not let Chippewa Indians hunt deer at night in northern Wisconsin.

Six Chippewa tribes failed to convince Federal Judge Barbara Crabb to re-consider her decision from 1991 which banned night hunting in the territory where the Chippewa have had hunting and fishing treaty rights for centuries. The tribes asked the Seventh Circuit appeals court in Chicago earlier this year to force Crabb to re-open the matter.

Crabb cited the DNR's safety concerns in rejecting the night deer hunting. But the Chippewa say it's an excuse that no longer applies, because the state allowed wolf hunters to shoot at night and the state has imposed night hunting to protect crops, prevent car-deer collisions, and prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease in the deer herd.

Judge Crabb said the night wolf hunting only lasted for one year before lawmakers cut it off. The Justice Department said the state has used night hunting for decades to solve various problems, and nothing has changed.

The state's legal brief points out that the general public has not been allowed to hunt deer at night since 1989.

Marshfield shop owner named in synthetic drug indictment

Nine people have been arrested, including one from Marshfield, as the result of a federal indictment in Denver as part of a crackdown on synthetic drugs.

The U.S. Attorney for Colorado listed Kenneth Chastain, the owner of the Avalon on Fourth store in Marshfield, as among those receiving shipments of "Spice" from other defendants a grand jury indicted Wednesday.

According to the indictment, John Bowen and Daniel Bernier ran companies in Colorado and Florida which imported chemicals from China that were used to manufacture synthetic drugs sold through

out the United States.

Prosecutors said that for the first time, a smokable version of synthetic pot was discovered. Besides the Wisconsin businessman, wholesalers and retailers from Illinois, Nebraska, and Colorado were arrested.

U.S. Attorney John Walsh told reporters in Denver that the indictment was the culmination of an eight-month investigation spurred by authorities who took action last summer due to large numbers of users getting sick.

Prosecutors said over 220 users of synthetic marijuana went to emergency rooms in the Denver and Colorado Springs areas last August and September and at least one death was attributed to "Spice."

Nude 'selfies' land teens in hot water

OSHKOSH -- Authorities in Oshkosh are considering juvenile delinquency actions against a 12-year-old girl and three teenage boys involved in the trading of lude photos in text messages, so-called "sexting." Officials at the Valley Christian School called police when they learned about the photos. By the time police met with the youngsters this week, the photos had been deleted from their cell-phones but they confessed to the activity, which occurred about three weeks ago.

A police official said the girl appeared to have been pressured by the three boys when she sent them nude photos of herself.

Officials said one of the boys, ages 14- and 15, also sent a nude picture of himself to the girl.

Miller-Coors profits up, revenue down for quarter

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee's remaining mega-brewer reports a higher quarterly profit, despite a drop in sales revenues. Miller-Coors said Wednesday that it netted $291 million from January through March -- just over seven percent more than the same time a year ago.

Its revenues were a sliver of a percent lower, falling to just over $2 billion.

CEO Tom Long said Miller-Coors is facing challenges in sales of its most popular brands of beer, Miller Lite and Coors Light. Meanwhile, the firm is gaining market shares for higher-priced brands like Redd's Apple Ale and Miller Fortune.

Miller of Milwaukee and Coors of Colorado merged its U.S. operations a few years ago and moved its headquarters to Chicago. Miller still has corporate offices and a large brewery in Milwaukee.

Duffy family grows by one

WAUSAU -- And baby makes nine. That's how many members there are in Congressman Sean Duffy's household, after his wife Rachel Campos Duffy had their seventh child on Tuesday night.

The Wausau area Republican posted a photo on Facebook with the proud parents and their baby girl posing in a hospital bed.

They also said the six siblings could "hardly contain their excitement" as they held their new sister for the first time. They also thanked people for their prayers and support.

Duffy's office confirmed the birth Wednesday but did not release details such as the girl's name.