There will be no joint statement between 14th Senate District recall candidates asking interest groups to butt out.

State Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo, said in an interview last week he would be willing to sign a statement with Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, asking outside groups to stop running attack ads involving the upcoming recall election.

"I'd love to see all these groups stay out of the race," Clark said in an interview last week.

But Olsen's campaign says there will be no such agreement.

"Unlike Fred Clark, Sen. Olsen is not about to discourage free speech," said Jeff Weigand, Olsen's campaign manager. "What Sen. Olsen will not stand for is the complete and blatant distortion of truth by the third parties."

An ad sponsored by the liberal Progressive Change Campaign Committee alleges that Olsen is responsible for the closure of Poy Sippi Elementary School - where his children attended. Olsen said the ad is "a blatant lie."

The ad says the school closed because of Olsen's vote to cut more than $800 million from public education.

Olsen responded to the ad with a press release that quotes a school board member who said the cuts to public education were not the reason for the school's closing.

Berlin Area School District Administrator Bob Eidahl has told the Baraboo News Republic the state budget cuts, which Olsen supported, were a factor. However, he said, they were not the sole reason for the decision.

The school had experienced declining enrollment and district leaders had considered closing it previously. A high number of retiring teachers allowed the district to move teachers at the elementary school to other positions within the district.

Club for Growth ad

Weigand said Clark is "just mad because even (P)olitifact agrees that the ad that one of the third parties is running against him is true."

He was referring to an ad sponsored by the conservative group Club for Growth Wisconsin.

The ad makes several claims about Clark's voting record, and one of those claims was labeled "true" by the group Politifact.com.

The commercial says Clark previously voted for a state budget that cut nearly $300 million from education. That's true, according to the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

But the Club for Growth ad also alleges Clark voted to cut SeniorCare while approving millions in earmarks. In the ad, the group does not bother to inform viewers that cost projections for SeniorCare in that budget were lower than in prior years. So although funding for the program was reduced, the program was fully funded and there were no cuts to services.

Beth Kaplan, spokeswoman for the Department of Health Services, confirmed that SeniorCare benefits and eligibility didn't change as a result of the funding reduction.

However, the Club for Growth stands behind the ad.

"That doesn't change the fact that they cut funding for the program," said Club for Growth adviser Deb Jordahl.

Family Action ads

Clark also is being attacked by ads sponsored by the conservative group Wisconsin Family Action. The group is running two ads.

One, critical of Clark's driving record, is factual. But another ad alleges that Clark has said making child support payments has not been a priority of his, and cites a court order that forced Clark to make $6,500 in back child support payments.

In fact, the court order came after Clark's ex-wife filed paperwork that she and Clark signed to increase his monthly payments after he received a pay increase. The paperwork was filed late, and that's what led to the court order requiring Clark to make back payments.

Clark told a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter that the paperwork was filed late because it was not a priority. He and his wife both play active roles in their teenage son's life, and both support him financially in a number of ways.

However, the Wisconsin Family Action ad takes Clark's quote out of context to make it appear as though Clark said paying child support - in general - was not a priority for him. Clark has denied saying that.

Multiple e-mails and phone calls to Wisconsin Family Action have not been returned.

Weigand said Olsen would be willing to talk to Clark about certain ads, but not others.

"If Fred is interested in signing a document asking the (Progressive Change Campaign Committee) to take down its blatantly false ad, then Sen. Olsen would be more than happy to sign on," Weigand said.

La Crosse Tribune reporter Chris Hubbuch contributed to this report. Send email to tdamos@capitalnewspapers.com.

 

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