State Rep. Chris Taylor

Poisoned Politics

Gov. Walker and legislative Republicans' lead poisoning agenda should sicken us all.

By - Sep 23rd, 2016 09:59 am
Old, peeling paint, seen in this windowsill in a rental property in Milwaukee, Wis. Photo by Matt Cambell of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Old, peeling paint, seen in this windowsill in a rental property in Milwaukee, Wis. Photo by Matt Cambell of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Wisconsin’s children face a serious public health crisis – lead poisoning.  According to a 2014 lead poisoning report by the state Department of Health Services (DHS), 21% of Wisconsin children under the age of 6 suffer from lead poisoning – higher than the national average. In parts of the state, including Milwaukee, Watertown, and Buffalo County, the percentage of children with lead poisoning exceeds Flint, Michigan. The consequences for children are devastating. As acknowledged by DHS: “Even very low levels of lead exposure can cause permanent brain damage and negatively affect learning, behavior, and health throughout the child’s life.”

Yet, Governor Walker and legislative Republicans have pushed a lead poisoning agenda that has further risked our children’s health and lives by: 1) Banning future and pending lawsuits against the lead paint industry, including 173 pending lawsuits by lead poisoned children; 2) Allowing a greater ratio of lead to be used in paint; and 3) Refusing to adopt lead poisoning standards consistent with current medical evidence.

Since 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has defined “lead poisoning” as 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood. Wisconsin continues to define lead poisoning at 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood, ignoring a state requirement that CDC standards be adopted.  Our state doesn’t investigate the source of lead poisoning until a child significantly exceeds federal standards, delaying investigation and remediation efforts and further risking children’s health.

I have repeatedly urged the Walker Administration to comply with state law and adopt the CDC standard. DHS admitted to knowing about the CDC findings since 2012, but failing to act.  I introduced a bill mandating the federal standard and more aggressive remediation efforts.  It went nowhere in the legislature.

Why would Governor Walker and legislative Republicans look the other way when our state already had a high incidence of lead poisoned children, particularly in the wake of the Flint water crisis?

Previously undisclosed documents recently released by The Guardian provide some answers. Scott Walker intentionally circumvented campaign finance laws by raising millions of secret corporate dollars to “his” organization, the Wisconsin Club for Growth (WCFG), to defeat the recall efforts against him and other Republican senators. The corporations that gave big fat donations to WCFG got big fat favors, even when those favors hurt our most vulnerable Wisconsinites—children sickened by lead poisoning.

Harold Simmons, a lead pigment manufacturer, gave a $500,000 corporate check and $250,000 in personal funds to WCFG between 2011 and 2012, in close proximity to the passage of the two lead immunity laws. In fact, a memo released by the Center for Media and Democracy suggests that Simmons’ NL Industries helped write the language in the retroactive immunity laws that Republican legislators slipped into the 2013-2015 budget. Thankfully, courts have allowed pending cases, including that of Yasmine Clark, who suffered significant and irreversible brain damage after lead paint poisoning as a toddler, to proceed.

DHS’s 2014 report states that “lead poisoning is 100% preventable. With enough resolve and commitment, it can be eliminated.” Unfortunately, there seems to be little resolve and commitment from the Republicans controlling our government to represent the interests of the people of this state instead of their big, corporate donors. Republican efforts to dilute lead poisoning standards and end the ability of ill children to get help from courts should sicken us all.

Chris Taylor, D-Madison, represents District 76 in the Wisconsin Assembly.

Categories: Health, Politics

33 thoughts on “Op-Ed: Poisoned Politics”

  1. I stand with Walker says:

    Everything but death and taxes is 100% preventable. The lead paint used in the 40s and 50s should not be put on the backs of paint companies now. Most of the people working in paint stores weren’t even alive then. As for the donations, what’s new? You really believe Democrats don’t get people to donate to them for favors? Ever hear of George Soros? Guess he doesn’t count when it’s given to a Democrat, huh? Or him funding BLM? Stop your hypocrisy.

  2. Wisconsinian says:

    The issue of lead paint manufacturers getting immunity from prosecution is not just about this issue, it’s simply one among many examples of the grotesque corruption of Walker and his people.

    Walker and his campaign broke long-established Wisconsin law that outlawed pay-for-play corruption. And, they broke comparable long-established Federal law. The state legislature passed laws retroactively legalizing the acts. This confirms the legislature’s corruption, but it doesn’t invalidate Federal law. The state Supreme Court used false arguments to dismiss the John Doe. This confirms the state court’s corruption, but it doesn’t erase Federal law.

    The federal Supreme Court may weigh in on that soon, with a decision whether to take the case. To non-partisan observers, it appears to be similar to a West Virginia case where corrupt state court judges ruled in favor of coal companies that had contributed to their campaigns. The federal Supreme Court held that the West Virginia justices that received contributions from coal companies should have recused themselves from ruling on the case.

  3. happyjack27 says:

    bla bla bla defending walker’s disgusting actions bla bla bla deflection and distraction bla bla bla

  4. WashCoRepub says:

    blah blah blah Koch Brothers blah blah paid posts blah blah racists homophobes misogynists blah blah Donald Trump blah blah NRA blah blah

  5. happyjack27 says:

    Holy crap, i made the deflection and distraction part recurse!

  6. I stand with Walker says:

    As a true liberal speaks you have the response from happyjack27. Thanks for showing your most precious thoughts that are so inspiring. I hope it didn’t take you long to find how to spell “bla”.

  7. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    The lack of pride by Walker backers is telling. There is no depth that you think is unacceptable with Gov Dropout, because that’ll mean us “liberals” were proven right. I mean, protecting LEAD PAINT MAKERS because they wrote you a check. Are you kidding???

    That’s a great example of our poisoned politics, and the gutlessness of today’s GOP voter. And you’ll never have the guts to want to get better, or admit you were wrong. Just like with another Dubya

  8. Vincent Hanna says:

    There is no right or wrong with these Walker defenders. Just “hey that one time Democrats did something bad too.” Or deflections that act like what he did isn’t bad and those darn liberals are just whining.

  9. happyjack27 says:

    Studies show actually that they have a completely different system of “morality”. It’s based on group cohesiveness, rather than standards. So basically if someone from their group did it, no matter what it is, it’s good. But if someone not from their group did it, no matter what it is, it’s bad.

    So there is right and wrong, but it’s just part of my group or not part of my group.

  10. happyjack27 says:

    Conversely, liberal morality is based on compassion and applying standards equally.

    Good book about it by renowned social psychologist Jonathon Haidt:

  11. I stand with Walker says:

    happyjack27: I just don’t understand how if liberal morality is based on compassion, how does that work for liberal policies that kill babies before they are born just to be compassionate about a woman’s rights? And if you are so compassionate, how is it such hate shows through against a Governor that you don’t agree with and anyone who supports him? I find most liberals support policies through emotions rather than rational ideas, that’s why most of them don’t work. Milwaukee is a case in point. How many cars have been stolen in this city since the policy was to not chase car thieves? How many drug sellers have been using cars to do their selling, because they know cops won’t chase them? Defend that with some of your compassion, please.

  12. Dave Reid says:

    To be clear the city doesn’t not have a “no chase policy.” That’s a nice talking point (misinformation), but it isn’t true. The policy is they won’t chase unless they believe someone in the car is committing a violent felony, which of course is not the same thing as a “no chase policy.” PS carjacking qualifies.

  13. happyjack27 says:

    ISWW: I suggest you read the book and look at its many references to scientific studies.

    If you don’t want to bother ordering it you can just google e.g. “conservative vs liberal brains”. Not sure it’ll cover the same areas as Haidt’s book, but in any case it will give you some starting points and links to deeper, per-reviewed resources.

  14. happyjack27 says:

    …or i suppose “conservative vs liberal morality” would be a better google search. (duh 😛 )

  15. happyjack27 says:

    here’s a website i found from that search that summarizes some things from Haidt’s research:

    It’s got a link to an online test, you may be curious how you rate.

  16. Vincent Hanna says:

    I think the issue is hyper-partisanship more than compassion, at least that is what I was getting at. So instead of discussing Walker’s deeds here and the topic of the piece, conservatives ignore that and mention George Soros and Democrats doing the same thing. In comments on a similar story they mention Doyle. Walker’s PR person here is getting way off topic. He’s just a troll.

  17. happyjack27 says:

    I’m saying the hyper-partisanship comes from their greater focus on authority, ingroup, and purity. And thus is sort of endemic to the party’s sociolgoical/psychological profile.

  18. Vincent Hanna says:

    Oh OK gotcha. But don’t liberals do this too?

  19. happyjack27 says:

    One might summarize this by Haidt’s finding (which is kind of just popular impression anyways), that liberals are more “open to new experiences”. If you’re more open to new experiences that already implies less in-group bias.

  20. AG says:

    There are probably people who do indeed have the mentality that if everyone is doing it, then it’s ok for them to do it. However, I don’t think that’s what the conversation here is all about.

    The “Walker supporters” here are probably just feeling that Rep. Taylor is blasting republicans while ignoring democrats who do similar acts. By calling out Democrats for doing the same sorts of things, they unintentionally appear to do the same thing Rep. Taylor is, which is calling out the other side while defending or ignoring Republicans doing the same act.

    I think most of us feel the same way… that it’s no good on either side. I think both sides feel that the other is defending “their side” while calling out the other. Can we all just agree that letting any sort of campaign donation influence policy is a bad thing?

  21. Vincent Hanna says:

    Sorry AG but that isn’t the case. In every story about this the Walker defenders never mention the actual topic and just say “Democrats did X.” They never ever in any way hint that maybe Walker did wrong. It’s just “Democrats did this.” Because they are trolls. Stop defending trolls man. It makes you appear foolish.

  22. happyjack27 says:

    If the situation was reversed, and it was a Democrat who did this crap, I’d be like “Wow, that’s a really shitty person. I regret voting for them and I will endeavor not to repeat that mistake.”

    And that’d be that. I wouldn’t feel the need to to deflect with a bunch of random “Republicans did X.” This wouldn’t jump out at me as an invitation to start spewing totally unrelated vitriol. No, it would jump out at me as a call to do some self-reflection and certainly to drop my support for the person.

    So no, there’s no equivalency here.

  23. AG says:

    I stand corrected. I went back and re-read “Istandwithwalker’s” comments and they do indeed defend the lead paint lawsuit prevention law. My head was still back on that other conversation…

    Side question, related to the topic but NOT regarding legislation coming about because of donations… if a company or organization does something bad 60 years ago should the company be held liable even if all the workers, the leaders of the company, and the owners have completely turned over and no one at the company was involved in the bad act?

  24. happyjack27 says:


    Those people were injured and they need to be able to redress their greivances.

    And the company knowingly did harm and they need to be punished for that to discourage others from doing the same.

    You can’t just let a company get off scott-free by holding up court cases and cycling their staff.

    The company – or in the case of a corporation, the corporate “person” – incurred that debt when they knowingly harmed those people, and they shall continue to owe that debt until it is paid.

  25. AG says:

    I agree with your assessment regarding corporate liability as it applies in this case. (I won’t get started on my feelings towards corporate “personhood” though) However, what about a statute of limitation?

  26. happyjack27 says:

    It varies from state to state.

    Under Wisconsin in that link it’s listed as “An action must be brought within three years of the date on which the injury occurred.”

    This law was already in place before Scott Walker did what he did.

    One should not that what Scott walker did applied also to PENDING claims – that is, actions that had already been brought up within three years of the date on which the injury occurred.

  27. happyjack27 says:

    “Statutes of limitations are laws passed by legislative bodies in common law systems to set the maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings may be initiated
    The intention of these laws is to facilitate resolution within a “reasonable” length of time.[2] What period of time is considered “reasonable” varies from country to country, and within countries such as the United States from state to state, and within countries and states from civil or criminal action to civil or criminal action. Some countries, and some crimes (depending on the country), have no statute of limitations whatsoever.

    Once filed, cases do not need to be resolved within the period specified in the statute of limitations.”

  28. Richard Rabin says:

    A little background: For decades after the lead companies – including NL Industries, Sherwin-Williams, ASARCO and Eagle Picher – knew that lead paint and pipes could cause lead poisoning they continued to sell those deadly products. (see “Warnings Unheeded: a history of child lead poisoning,” American Journal of Public Health, 1989
    The Lead Industry and Lead Water Pipes: “A Modest Campaign”; Am J Public Health. 2008;98:1584–1592)

  29. AG says:

    I was just curious about people’s opinions on whether there should be a statute of limitation, rather than what the statute actually was.

  30. happyjack27 says:

    Well it’s not really relevant to the article what it is, because statutes of limitation just put a limit on when you can file a claim, and what Walker did included claims that were already filed.

  31. happyjack27 says:

    “The purpose and effect of statutes of limitations are to protect defendants. There are three reasons for their existence:

    * A plaintiff with a valid cause of action should pursue it with reasonable diligence.
    * A defendant might have lost evidence to disprove a stale claim.
    * A long-dormant claim has more cruelty than justice (Halsbury’s Laws of England, 4th edition).

    The limitation period generally begins when the plaintiff’s cause of action accrues, or they become aware of a previous injury (for example, occupational lung diseases such as asbestosis).

    Note the bolded part. The clock begins when they become aware of the injury.

    Note also above that, that the valid reasons claims are denied on these grounds are:

    * the plaintiff did not persue it with reasonable diligance
    * the defendant no longer has evidence to disprove a claim, or
    * the intend of the claim is malice, rather than compensation

    so you see for many reasons statute of limitations is not even relevant here. regardless of what it is, the plaintiff still has grounds to sue.

  32. happyjack27 says:

    …with the notable exception of lead poising claims in Wisconsin that weren’t resolved before Scott Walker was elected.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us