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PRESS CONFERENCE (copy)

Attorney General Brad Schimel speaks during a press conference in Madison in May.

Attorney General Brad Schimel is using a lawsuit aimed at repealing the federal Affordable Care Act to raise money for his re-election campaign, a move his opponents call a hypocritical waste of taxpayer dollars. 

Schimel's office filed a lawsuit in February on behalf of 20 other states arguing that the Affordable Care Act, which levies a tax penalty against those who do not have health care coverage, is unconstitutional. In court filings earlier this month the U.S. Department of Justice largely affirmed that view, stating that the individual insurance mandate is unconstitutional and should be struck down, along with other key provisions, by January 2019. 

"By almost any measure, the ACA has largely been a failure," wrote Schimel's office in a June 8 press release cheering the U.S. DOJ's opinion. The federal court is expected to rule on the case later this year. 

 In a fundraising email Tuesday, Schimel's re-election campaign appealed to supporters for donations to advance repeal efforts.

"You and I know this lawsuit has done more damage than good, but my opponent would use his office as a partisan tool to keep it in place, further hurting families across Wisconsin and the country," according to the email.  

Schimel's case includes calls to also strike down the law's provisions for pre-existing conditions and allowing those 26 years old and younger to stay on their parent's health insurance. 

One Wisconsin Now, a Madison-based liberal advocacy group said the lawsuit and fundraising email reflect the moneyed interests that helped put Schimel in office. The ACA lawsuit shows that Schimel is using his office as a partisan political tool. 

"If that wasn’t bad enough, he’s personally soliciting contributions because he wants to allow insurance companies to kick people with pre-existing conditions off of their health care," Joanna Beilman-Dulin, research director for the group, wrote in an email. "Brad Schimel is taking it to the next level with his shameless fundraising tactics. He’s gone to bat in court to protect big money special interests instead of our communities and consumers. Now he’s asking people to ‘chip in’ as he sues to take away protections for pre-existing conditions and to stop insurance companies from dropping your coverage if you get sick."

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Schimel is running against Democrat Josh Kaul, a former federal prosecutor. Kaul said Tuesday Schimel should focus on fixing state problems instead of curbing affordable health care. 

"We should be working to expand access to affordable health care, not trying to eliminate protections for the more than two million Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions. Instead of wasting tax dollars on this partisan lawsuit, our AG should be going after large-scale meth and opioid traffickers and working to reduce the delays at our crime labs," Kaul said in an email. 

A Schimel campaign spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment by email and phone Tuesday. 

The Affordable Care Act is one of several federal laws targeted in lawsuits by Wisconsin's Department of Justice under Schimel. His office has led on two other cases: challenging a Federal Communications Commission law on broadband access and an Environmental Protection Agency rule that would require Wisconsin to lower emissions in order to assist downwind states. The rule is a part of the federal Clean Air Act.

Schimel's office was also involved in two other lawsuits against the EPA regarding ozone rules and regulations governing coal-fired power plants. 

 

Katelyn Ferral is The Cap Times' public affairs and investigative reporter. She joined the paper in 2015 and previously covered the energy industry for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. She's also covered state politics and government in North Carolina.