Op Ed

Why Flynn Should Withdraw From Race

And why two Democratic legislators felt they must oppose Matt Flynn for governor.

By - Jul 1st, 2018 01:25 pm
Matt Flynn. Photo courtesy of Forward with Flynn.

Matt Flynn. Photo courtesy of Forward with Flynn.

Scott Walker’s devastating actions inspired us to run for state office, and we have seen up close the harmful consequences of his agenda on so many of the things we hold dear. We have been his consistent and outspoken critics, and we will work tirelessly to defeat him in November.

It was after much research, deliberation and some hesitation that we recently called for Matt Flynn to withdraw from Wisconsin’s Democratic gubernatorial primary.

We took such an unusual step not because we wanted to, but because we had to. Before anything else, we have to act as human beings. If our actions or inactions are solely guided by party affiliation, we are mimicking the trance we often criticize in our Republican colleagues as they cast vote after harmful vote in lockstep.

Media accounts in May that referenced Flynn’s role in one of the largest coverups of priest child sexual abuse in the country by the Milwaukee Archdiocese and his treatment of the victims spurred us to do our own research.

What we discovered when looking at the electronic files of a handful of priests, consisting of hundreds of documents (thousands more remain that we didn’t review, but are publicly available), was that Flynn played a central role in facilitating the coverup of priest sexual abuse of children. As chief legal counsel to the Milwaukee Archdiocese from 1989-2004, Flynn was aware of priests’ sexual abuse of children, assisted in transferring abusive priests to other parishes, failed to—and sometimes prevented others from—reporting instances of child sexual abuse by priests to law enforcement, paid off priests who went on to pursue professions working with families and children, negotiated settlements with victims requiring secrecy, and filed liens against survivors whose cases fell outside the statute of limitations. We drafted a memo detailing just a portion of these findings. Some of our findings were also independently corroborated by media reports.

Since our public call, Flynn and a few others have accused us of being pawns of other gubernatorial candidates. Those who know us know that this is simply untrue. To be very clear, we are not backing any democratic candidate for Governor nor have we been offered positions by any potential democratic governor. Covering up the sexual abuse of children is wrong, regardless of party identity.

Some say Flynn was just doing his job. As a former practicing attorney, Rep. Taylor takes this response seriously. But how many abuses today and in modern history were perpetuated because people were just doing their jobs? The massive coverup by the Milwaukee Archdiocese of child sexual abuse by dozens of priests is well documented by their own files, by documentaries, and by media accounts. We should all be able to say that those involved in keeping this abuse silent for so long were wrong. We should all agree that sending known perpetrators including Lawrence Murphy or Michael Nueberger, both of whom admitted to sexually abusing dozens of children during the Archdiocese’s evaluations to which Flynn was privy, silently back to their communities was wrong.

We could argue that exposing these priests immediately would have better served the Milwaukee Archdiocese. But a choice was made, when certainly other options were available, to ignore it as long as possible, until the victims and the public demanded accountability.  The files show that Flynn was a part of this system of silence, and he was wrong.

What you see and what you hear in the files that we reviewed is not just the voice of the perpetrators, but also of the victims. Many detail patterns of distress that flowed from the abuse that followed them their whole lives. In the wake of the dozens and dozens of priests who we now know where perpetrators, are hundreds, if not thousands, of shattered lives.

In Flynn’s response, there is no apology to them, or acknowledgment of what occurred. Rather than refute the facts, he attacks those who survived and those who speak out.

We know that there is no perfect candidate. We come to our jobs as elected officials with our own imperfections. But if we didn’t speak up knowing what we know about Matt Flynn’s history and his attempt now to deny, minimize and dismiss it, we would be complicit. And we are not willing to live with that.

By Representative Chris Taylor, first elected to the state Assembly in 2011 and representative of the 76th Assembly District, and Representative Melissa Sargent, first elected to the state Assembly in 2012 and representative of the 48th Assembly District.

Rep. Taylor can be reached at 608-469-4618, or chris@taylorforassembly.com. Rep. Sargent can be reached at 608-220-2273 or melissa@melissasargent.com.

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

24 thoughts on “Op Ed: Why Flynn Should Withdraw From Race”

  1. Troll says:

    We should ask all the democratic politicians that new Harvey Weinstein was a monster to step down. Wait that might be half of Congress.


    The self-absorption of some virtue-signaling public figures knows no limits.

  3. PMD says:

    So every Roy Moore supporter including the president should step down?

  4. Sam says:

    It does open him up to some pretty easy and damaging political attacks if he was the democratic nominee. That’s the only reason he should bow out. He did nothing wrong.

  5. chris says:

    The Catholic church paid out $31 million in damages in Milwaukee. Minnesota victims got $210 million in damages. What does this tell you. You can run from your record but you can’t hide!

  6. Matt says:

    Some say Flynn was just doing his job. As a former practicing attorney, Rep. Taylor takes this response seriously.

    This is a blatant lie and Taylor should resign for her lack of acceptance of both constitutional rights and simple moral ethics. Anyone who takes rights seriously is well aware and respectful of attorneys who do “repugnant” things in order to protect the rights of all. If representative Taylor is half as serious as she claims she would wonder why a DEMOCRAT such as herself is trying on the anti- Catholic hat at the same time Trump is locking Catholic kids in cages.

    She claims she took this seriously????? Well she better start taking some other things seriously. Call and ask for a check, Chris. Call all the Catholics! Call all the lawyers! And then shut up, cuz your stupidity will kill the party. If you don’t like the Consitution or Civil Rights, put on the MAGA hat and eff off. The Democrats are better than you. You bigot.

  7. PMD says:

    Matt Flynn posting here again.

  8. GRNDPAKWH says:

    Matt Flynn walked away from his defense of child abuse with a big salary. The victims will live forever with the repercussions of what had been done to them. Matt Flynn is not fit to run for public office.

  9. Lindy says:

    No way are we voting for Flynn. There are enough vile, immoral jerks in government, don’t need another one.

  10. Kathy D. says:

    Thank you for speaking out, Reps. Taylor and Sargent. Courageous women!

  11. George Mitchell says:

    Yeah. So “courageous.” Such a big risk.

  12. JAnderson says:

    In our system of justice, everyone is entitled to legal representation including those charged with crimes. The crimes of clients should never be ascribed to their defense attorneys. Flynn and his highly reputable Quarles and Brady law firm represented the Archdiocese with expertise as he and his law firm were duty bound to do.

    Why doesn’t Taylor as a lawyer understand this legal principle and fundamental tenant of America’s system of equal justice under the law?

    Did Taylor and Sargent meet with Flynn – all progressive Democrats – to present their concerns and hear his response and have a dialogue with him on them? Nothing from their article suggests they did. Which makes their article more of a smear than an honest evaluation of Flynn’s role as a defense attorney.

    Flynn is the most progressive candidate in the Democrat Primary. He has been a fierce fighter for progressive issues from the days years ago when he was the leader of Wisconsin’s Democrat Party – when he helped elect a Democrat Governor and Legislature.

    Taylor and Sargent have diminished their credibility with this article which is as close to a smear as it can be.

  13. Thomas says:

    Re post # 3, yes, every Roy Moore supporter – including Trump, should step down. I also agree with Chris and Melissa that Matt Flynn should withdraw from the race for governor. His baggage would be easy prey for the reactionaries who thrive on trashing liberals.

  14. MKE Native says:

    Indeed, everyone has a right to an attorney–even rapist priests and callous archbishops with no moral compass. And every attorney has a right to make a killing by repping whoever will hire them.

    But being fit for the state’s highest office is another story.

    Flynn has already lost four elections. Maybe it’s time to cry Uncle.


    I would like Reps. Taylor and Sargent to link us to the motions they have introduced that eliminate the state public defender’s office. By the Taylor-Sargent criteria, taxpayers should not defend the perpetrators who arrive at the PD door. The fact is that our criminal justice system requires effective representation of the accused. The absence of such representation is a hallmark of non-democratic societies.

  16. PMD says:

    Effective representation yes. Is that being disputed?

    “Flynn played a central role developing and administering a system where priests known to have abused children were kept in ministry, transferred to other parishes or paid off rather than reported to police.”

    That’s not about effective representation is it? People have no problem with those actions?

  17. Geoff Davidian says:

    Regardless of Matt’s work for the party and the right of the archdiocese to the best representation possible, the comments here suggest as a “candidate” for governor he faces obstacles that some voters will not allow him to overcome. At a time when society is focused on sexual abuse by powerful people, this issue may be a red herring but it is a very, very red one and will help Walker if Flynn wins. Matt starts in a deep hole that no other Democratic Party candidate faces on any other issue. Whether the fact he paid off party debt years ago can overcome that is not obvious.

  18. Kathy Derene says:

    “What we discovered when looking at the electronic files of a handful of priests, consisting of hundreds of documents (thousands more remain that we didn’t review, but are publicly available), was that Flynn played a central role in facilitating the cover up of priest sexual abuse of children.”

    Providing effective representation for someone accused of a crime is one thing. Covering it up is some different entirely.

  19. Gavin Eastsider says:

    Democrats have a terrible track record of picking candidates to oppose Walker in elections. There are 2 relevant questions here, given the party’s sorry track record in this arena. The first is: does the candidate have the bona fides to take on a very big and complex job? (Barrett did, but Mary Burke did not). Second, who has a reasonably good chance to win versus Walker? (Neither Barrett nor Burke did, as Barrett was essentially a bureaucrat without a compelling message and no discernable leadership charisma, and Burke was essentially inexperienced to key officeholding).

    I doubt that Flynn passes either test. He is especially vulnerable on the second question as the GOP will have lots of mud to throw out against him due to the presentation in this article. If the Democrats have not learned this simple lesson in recent years, they do not deserve to win the State’s highest office due to political incompetence.

  20. JAnderson says:

    To Gavin Eastsider – you are wrong on both your points.

    Flynn passes both your tests with flying colors.

    First, His intellect, progressive public policy depth and history and his political savvy will make him the most effective Governor of all the candidates. That is more important than anything.

    Second, he can win because his progressive message will resonate and his political intellect and savvy will destroy Walker in the Governor debates.

    Matt Flynn is the most progressive candidate for Governor in the race and has the greatest ability to enact a progressive agenda for Wisconsin.


    Kathy Derene: It seems like a legitimate issue for Flynn’s opponents to raise rather than a reason to disqualify him from the ballot. (BTW, it’s been about 40 years since I heard your name.)

  22. Kathy D. says:

    40 years, George? How can that be? I’m only 42. 😉

  23. George Mitchell says:

    Ha! I knew a Kathy and Steve Derene. Or at least I thought it was Kathy.,

  24. Karen says:

    Enough with the excuses–under the circumstances Matt Flynn is unfit to represent our state. Haven’t we had enough corrupt and morally ambiguous people to deal with?!

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