Commentary

Justice Dan Kelly’s big guns and deaf ear

March 4, 2020 5:50 pm
Gun control demonstrator holds sign showing assault rifle with words American Idol

A demonstrator holds a sign depicting an assault rifle at a protest against President Trump’s visit to El Paso after the mass shooting there. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly is tone deaf when it comes to gun violence in Wisconsin.

Just a day after a gunman killed five people and himself at the Molson Coors brewery in Milwaukee, Kelly held a fundraiser at a Brookfield shooting range.

Justice Daniel Kelly (Wisconsin Court System)
Justice Daniel Kelly (Wisconsin Court System)

The Feb. 27 fundraiser offered participants three levels of giving – $5,000, $2,500, and $1,000. The $5,000 level was named after the Browning .50 caliber machine gun. The $2,500 level was named after the .25 Automatic Colt Pistol. And the $1,000 level was named after the 10mm semi-automatic pistol cartridge.

Kelly, a conservative with Republican backing, was appointed in 2016 to fill a vacancy on the high court by former GOP Gov. Scott Walker. Kelly faces Dane County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky, who is backed by Democrats, in the April 7 spring elections.

Kelly was endorsed in mid-February by the National Rifle Association, the nation’s largest pro-gun group. So far, the NRA has not contributed to Kelly’s campaign or sponsored electioneering activities in the race.

Between January 1998 and December 2019, the NRA spent more than $5.5 million on outside electioneering activities to support GOP and conservative legislative and statewide candidates. In addition to outside electioneering activities, NRA political action committees have directly contributed $121,950 to all legislative and statewide candidates between January 1998 and December 2019.

Kelly authored a Supreme Court decision in 2017 that prohibited the city of Madison from banning guns on city busses under a state’s concealed carry law.

Kelly has gotten support from two other far-right groups.

In December, the Koch group Americans for Prosperity IE Committee reported spending over $13,000 on his behalf.

And at the beginning of March, Wisconsin Family Action filed paperwork with the state showing it spent $17,500 to support him.

To date, the only outside expenditure group supporting Karofsky is the SEIU Wisconsin State Council, which has reported spending $113,000 against Kelly. 

As far as Kelly’s individual contributors, here are his 10 biggest guns between July 2018 and Feb. 3, 2020: 

• Fred and Sandra Young Jr., Racine, retired owners of Young Radiator, $30,000,

• William and Suzanne Barry, Brookfield, owners of Speed Systems, $22,500,

• Diane Hendricks, Beloit, owner of ABC Supply, $20,000,

• Thomas and Connie Schuette, Wausau, retired owners of Wausau Homes, $20,000,

• Timothy Michels, Hartland, vice president of Michels Corp., and his wife, Barbara, $20,000,

• Kim Hendricks, Janesville, a retired ABC Supply executive, $20,000,

• Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein, Lake Forest, Ill., owners of Uline Corp., $20,000,

• Kathryn Burke, Milwaukee, owner of Burke Properties, $20,000,

• Donald Zietlow, Onalaska, owner of Kwik Trip, $20,000,

• Craig Leipold, Racine, owner of the Minnesota Wild hockey team, $11,000.

As of February 3, Kelly had outraised Karofsky $989,000 to $349,000. And Kelly had much more cash on hand: $463,000 to Karofsky’s $181,000.

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Matt Rothschild
Matt Rothschild

Prior to joining the Democracy Campaign at the start of 2015, Matt worked at The Progressive magazine for 32 years. For most of those, he was the editor and publisher of The Progressive.

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