Inmate hatches scheme to blackmail John Menard; U.S. Senate debate is tonight; more briefsWisconsin News
A state prisoner, who tried to gain access to a man’s bank accounts and filed false income tax claims, is now accused of trying to extort $9 million from the owner of Menards by placing child porn on his computer.
A state prisoner, who tried to gain access to a man’s bank accounts and filed false income tax claims, is now accused of trying to extort $9 million from the owner of Menards.
Kristine Flynn, 54, an inmate at Taycheedah near Fond du Lac, has made an initial court appearance on nine felony charges that include threats, kidnapping, forgery and simulating the legal process.
A preliminary hearing is set for Nov. 15 in Fond du Lac County Circuit Court.
Prosecutors said Flynn came up with a scheme to plant child porn from her prison cell onto the computer of John Menard, who owns the Eau Claire-based Menards home improvement chain. And she would threaten to tell the media about the child porn if Menard didn’t pay her $9 million.
Authorities said Flynn tried getting help from the outside, and those people turned her in.
Prosecutors said no child porn turned up on Menard’s computers, and the business tycoon has no idea who Flynn is.
She was convicted in 2010 of trying to claim false Homestead income tax credits on an apartment, even though she was behind bars at the time. That extended her prison time by five years. Later in 2010, Flynn was sentenced to 22 more years on three counts of falsely acting as a public official. Officials said Flynn forged documents granting her custody of another inmate’s son and his bank accounts.
U.S. Senate debate is tonight
The two main candidates in an extremely tight U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin will debate each other tonight.
Republican Tommy Thompson regained his earlier lead over Democrat Tammy Baldwin by just one percentage point, 46-45, in the latest Marquette Law School poll released Wednesday. The race is considered a dead heat because the results are well within the poll’s 3.4% margin of error.
Tonight’s debate begins at 7 p.m. from the UW-Marathon County campus in Wausau. It will be broadcast live on Wisconsin Public Television and WTMJ TV in Milwaukee and will be streamed live at several places on the Internet including the Journal Sentinel Website and wisconsinvote.org.
Andy Moore of Wisconsin Public Television said the format will require Thompson and Baldwin to dig deeper into issues, beyond their normal campaign speeches.
Yesterday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie campaigned for Thompson in Green Bay. Last night in Waukesha, 2008 GOP White House candidate John McCain and his fellow U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham were at reception for Thompson.
Baldwin plans to appear with former President Bill Clinton tomorrow night in Green Bay. She’ll also be with First Lady Michelle Obama as she campaigns in Racine and Wausau during the day tomorrow.
Baldwin has the financial edge with $3.5 million in her campaign fund at the start of October compared to $2 million for Thompson.
Outside groups are spending millions more on both sides. Karl Rove’s GOP group has spent $5 million on the Wisconsin Senate race in the last two months, and it unveiled a third major ad campaign Wednesday.
Survey says GOP candidates gaining in Wisconsin
The latest Marquette Law School shows that Republicans are gaining ground in both the presidential and the U.S. Senate races in Wisconsin, and both are now considered toss-ups.
The Democrats have a razor-thin lead in both. But statistically, they’re considered to be tied because both surveys are well within the poll’s 3.4% margin of error.
President Obama leads Republican Mitt Romney 49% to 48%, and Democrat Tammy Baldwin leads Republican Tommy Thompson in the Senate race by just one point, 46% to 45%.
The Marquette poll surveyed 870 likely voters between last Thursday and Sunday, and the margin of error is 3.4% either way.
Polling director Charles Franklin said the first presidential debate had a big impact, and Romney was the clear beneficiary. Seventy-three percent of the likely Wisconsin voters surveyed said they watched the first debate. And those who watched gave Romney a two-point edge, while those who didn’t watch it favored Obama by eight points.
Franklin said the president held a steady lead in September for Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes, but since the debates began, Wisconsin is now a true toss-up.
Also, the Marquette poll shows that the effects from the negative TV advertising in the Senate race are canceling each other out.
Forty-eight percent agreed with the Democrat’s statement that former Gov. Thompson “sold out to special interests and isn’t working for you anymore.” An identical 48% agree with Thompson’s ads saying that Baldwin is one of the most liberal members of the U.S. House and is “too liberal for Wisconsin.”
Solidarity Singers conductor says he’ll fight fines
The head of a group that sings protest songs at the State Capitol every weekday says he’s challenging eight tickets for not getting state permits.
Brandon Barwick told the Madison Capital Times he received three citations by mail last week along with five others earlier. The potential fines total almost $1,700.
The online paper said Capitol Police Chief David Erwin has put more pressure on the Solidarity Singers to comply with the administration’s policy, which requires permits for gatherings in the statehouse. Erwin began a crackdown on the policy soon after he began running the Capitol police force this past summer.
Barwick has been conducting the group for about the last four months. Members say the group has no real structure so no one’s in a position to sign a state permit.
Daithi Wolfe often leads the group on Friday sing-alongs which take place outside the Capitol, but he recently led the group inside as well and was given a citation.
The sing-alongs have become a mainstay ever since the 2011 protests over the state law which limited public union bargaining. The group plans to celebrate its 500th gathering on the Nov. 6 Election Day.
Wisconsin company cuts ties with Armstrong
The Wisconsin company that made bicycles for Lance Armstrong says it will no longer support the embattled cyclist.
The Trek Corporation of Waterloo joined Nike and Anheuser-Busch yesterday in cutting their ties with Armstrong.
Trek said it was disappointed by the conclusions from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. That group released its evidence last week of an elaborate doping ring, which it said involved Armstrong and his former U.S. Postal Service teammates.
The Anti-Doping Agency banned Armstrong from competitive cycling a few weeks ago and stripped him of his seven Tour de France titles.
Trek voiced its support for Armstrong in August, citing his “remarkable contributions to the sport of cycling and the fight against cancer.”
Trek says it will continue to support the Livestrong charity that Armstrong started to fight cancer. Armstrong stepped down from the charity Wednesday, saying he hopes it will put more focus on the foundation’s mission.
Armstrong denies doping. But he chose not to fight the allegations through arbitration. He cited flaws in the process.
Development group drops ball in monitoring job growth
For the last 16 months, Wisconsin’s job creation agency has failed to keep track of whether businesses were paying back tax-funded loans for job growth.
As a result, up to 99 businesses are late in making an estimated $8 million in past-due payments to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Exact figures are still being determined.
The agency’s No. 2 official, Ryan Murray, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the past-due loans represent about 16% of the $51 million tax dollars loaned by the corporation, which was initiated by Gov. Scott Walker as a replacement for the old State Commerce Department.
He said the agency has no records of its loan collection efforts since June of last year. Murray told the paper, “A ball was dropped here a year ago, but the system worked in uncovering it.”
The corporation’s outgoing CEO, Paul Jadin, did not mention the loan snafu during a legislative hearing Wednesday on a number of problems that have cropped up in the agency.
Murray said the agency’s board had not been told about the matter, but members did get briefed later Wednesday. Walker was told late last week.
Assembly Democrat Jon Richards of Milwaukee called it “a tremendous abuse of the public trust … and if it had happened at a private business, heads would roll – not just one.”
Murray agreed that a “personnel situation” is on the horizon, but he did not elaborate. Murray worked in the governor’s office when he was transferred to the economic agency a few months ago.
That was after it was learned the agency promised to fund a software company if it had won a competitive contracting bid. Both the funding and the bidding process were scrapped once that news got out.
Two more sentenced in child-care fraud case
A couple who helped manage a Milwaukee child care center will spend six months in prison for stealing thousands of dollars from Wisconsin taxpayers.
Duane and Shontina Gladney must pay $100,000 in restitution. They’ll also spend three years on probation. During that time, Duane Gladney will spend six months under monitored house arrest and his wife will get a three-month term.
Both pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges after running a center that made false reimbursement claims in the Wisconsin Shares child care program for the working poor.
Telisa Hopgood also helped run the daycare center in question, and she falsely claimed that Latasha Jackson’s kids had attended the facility. Jackson got over $3 million from the Wisconsin Shares program, and she was sentenced earlier to 14 months in prison on a federal conviction.
Hopgood, who’s Shontina Gladney’s sister, was given two months of probation.
Those were the only federal charges resulting from the massive fraud in the Wisconsin Shares program that was uncovered over the last several years. Dozens of state charges were filed, and the scams resulted in the closings of over 170 child care centers in Milwaukee alone.
State officials said they have saved almost $150 million tax dollars as a result of a crackdown on the Wisconsin Shares abuses.