Happless Justice

Susan Happ is not fit to be Attorney General.

A scandal in which Happ handed a get-out-of-jail-free card to an accused child molester with whom she had a business arrangement is one astounding example of why, but her entire campaign is built around an approach to the job that is far too unserious for the serious job for which she’s applying.

First, the scandal. Happ sold her house to an individual named Daniel Reynolds for $180,000 in 2009 in an arrangement called a land contract, which basically means the deal is an ongoing financial entanglement between the two parties until the contract is satisfied. The contract was still in force in 2011, when Reynolds was brought up on multiple felony charges of child molestation.

The case came to Susan Happ’s desk. But instead of acknowledging that she had a significant financial interest in the case and recusing herself and her office, as any good DA would do and by no means an uncommon practice, she took the case. Happ defends her decision by pointing out that she gave the case to an underling – someone over whom Happ likely had hiring and firing prerogatives.

Update: The JS also reported that Reynolds’ lawyer, with whom Happ’s office reached the cushy deal, gave $750 to Happ’s campaign. Now busted, Happ has pledged to return the money.

Someone duly cynical about politics can guess the outcome: Reynolds got off with a disorderly conduct charge in a “deferred prosecution,” meaning if he didn’t touch any more girls in the next year he’d be absolved. The Wisconsin Reporter elaborates.

The choices here aren’t multifaceted. Either Happ is completely incompetent and demonstrated judgment unfit for a district attorney, let alone Attorney General – or she was worried that Reynolds’ going to jail would jeopardize his ability to fulfill the contract and pay her the money he owed her for the house.

Both choices are damning for Happ. In a milquetoast editorial, the JS opined that Happ should’ve sought a special prosecutor, apparently subscribing to the incompetence theorem of Happ.

Rather than offer a legitimate defense of her indefensible actions Happ’s campaign has tossed red herrings into the arena. “…The house had been owned by Happ’s husband, Laurence Rupprecht, before the pair married in March 2009. Reynolds and his girlfriend had been renting the property before offering to buy it,” Dan Bice wrote on his JS blog. Who owned the house before the deal and who lived there is not relevant to the events of 2011. Happ admits having a “a marital property interest” in the house, which is why she signed the contract rather than her husband and which is relevant to the events of 2011 when her office went easy on Reynolds.

Furthermore, the decision to file charges in this case, he said, was made by an assistant district attorney, not by Happ,” Bice continues. Also irrelevant; it was Happ’s office, and the buck stops at Happ. Her shirking of that responsibility is cringeworthy.

The victim of the molestation, now 25, recently came out with a statement, lambasting Happ’s decision and stating that she was never consulted about the deal Happ’s office gave her accused abuser. Happ’s supporters have responded by questioning the victim’s motives.

Will Happ’s supporters attack the victims of crime when she’s attorney general as well?

Molestergate, despite the gravity of the accusation, is just a symptom of Happ’s limp-wristed approach to justice, and it’s not the only example. She also came under fire from a progressive blog as being “unelectable” prior to the Dem primary because of her involvement in a case in which disgraced Democrat Party hack Graeme Zielinski got off the hook for his third drunk driving offense, which Happ’s office filed as a first offense.

Happ also signed Gov. Scott Walker’s recall petition.

Instead of vigorously defending the cause of public safety, Happ is open in her desire to pursue a partisan agenda more than she is interested in pursuing the cause of bringing justice to criminals.

“I’m ready for a fight, and we’re in a real fight here in Wisconsin, aren’t we? We’re in a protracted battle to protect our rights,” Happ shouted to supporters at Fighting Bob Fest. “Our rights” is a liberalism for the right to vote without showing an ID and the kind of reproductive rights the Democrats have fashioned their entire message around in the Obama era in order to drive a wedge in the nonmarried female demographic. This social justice for the modern age agenda seems to be of paramount importance to Happ.

Happ’s non sequitir campaign theme of pushing the farcical melodramatic “War on Women” runs contrary to the job description of the office as the state’s top cop, who is ordinarily charged with delivering justice to killers, people who sell drugs to kids – and of course people who molest children.

Happ is like someone who proclaims her intent to redesign the company’s stylebook in a job interview for chief financial officer.

Happ’s campaign theme of pushing Democrat narratives is unbecoming of the office. The AG’s role is too important to have someone in the job who worries about partisan optics rather than finding and locking up criminals.

Brad Schimel, Happ’s Republican opponent, is eminently qualified for the job. He’s endorsed by more than 85 sheriffs, DAs, and legislators. That bipartisan support from people who are serious about prosecuting crime is Schimel’s most prominent feather, but so is his record as Waukesha County DA and his 25 years as a prosecutor.

Schimel has eschewed an ideological campaign and focuses instead on a logical campaign: to find lawbreakers and threats to the public safety and deal with them. He’s focused heavily on the rising problem of heroin use in Wisconsin, particularly by teenagers, a bona fide epidemic in many parts of the state.

Happ will be unable to defend the indefensible, so I expect her to lash back with some kind of a negative campaign in an attempt to throw out more red herrings and again try to change the story. It’s her only recourse.

Regardless, she reinforces my thesis that she’s more interested in pursuing partisan politics than criminals.

Wasting the Attorney General’s office on someone who would distract the AG’s office with partisan narratives, dilute the role of the AG, and hand down weak punishments would be a disaster for justice, and a boon for the crime industry in Wisconsin.

About the writer: Chris Rochester has worked in communications and finance for a state Senate and congressional campaign, consulted on numerous Assembly and local races, and has held leadership roles in his local Republican Party. He's communications director for the MacIver Institute. Commentary here is strictly his own.