The race to represent Wisconsin in the US Senate is increasingly focused on the issue of public safety. Republicans and allied groups have spent millions of dollars to ads linking the Democratic candidateLieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, to groups that promoted the unpopular slogan “defund the police” and pushed to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The race between Barnes and Republican Senator Ron Johnson has netted $48 million in external expenses to tip the balance in the race, according to the Federal Election Commission. A report of the Wesleyan Media Project revealed that over the past two weeks, more than 14,000 ads about the two candidates have been shown across Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, Johnson’s campaign, which did not respond to a request for comment, touts its desire to protect the lives of police officers, noting that 73 cops were killed on duty in 2021. Johnson blames Democrats for not support the police.
“As with so many disasters we witness under the Biden administration and Democratic governance, these killings did not happen by chance,” Johnson’s campaign website said. States. “They are linked to the hostility towards law enforcement promoted by leaders of the Democratic Party and the radical left. They are one of the results of Democratic policies such as border capture and release, the low or no bail, the lenient treatment of criminals, and the failure of Democratic courts to fully prosecute violent offenders and put them in jail.
But despite strong campaign language on supporting police, Johnson’s voting record shows a streak of opposition to public safety funding.
Since 2016, Johnson has voted against passing the federal budget four times, voting against the budget for fiscal years 2018, 2020, 2021 and 2022. He approved the budget for fiscal years 2017 and 2019.
Johnson, who is generally opposed to government spending, did not vote no because of the public safety provisions contained in the massive budget bills, but the effect of his votes was to try to block billions of funding dollars for local and state policing programs.
Johnson voted against combined funding of $3.6 billion for federal programs that support local law enforcement and public safety measures. Those votes included $20 million in funding for Wisconsin that would have put 58 more police officers on the streets in the state.
Most of the funding Johnson voted against, $2.1 billion, would have gone to the Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program. The JAG program is the primary source of federal funding for local and state justice systems. The program funds “law enforcement, prosecutions, indigent advocacy, courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and drug enforcement. law, planning, evaluation, technology enhancement and initiatives for victims and witnesses of crime, as well as mental health programs and related law enforcement. and correctional programs, including behavioral programs and crisis intervention teams,” according to the US Department of Justice; $6 million of the funding Johnson voted against was for Wisconsin.
Johnson voted against additional funding of $1.5 billion for the Community Oriented Police Services (COPS) program. The COPS program sends money to local law enforcement to promote “community-oriented” policing practices that aim to improve relationships between law enforcement and residents in their communities. Johnson’s negative votes included $13 million earmarked for Wisconsin.
In the two years Johnson voted for the federal budget, he approved $826.5 million for the JAG program and $525 million for the COPS program, for a total of $1.3 billion. These votes included $4 million in JAG funding and $500,000 in COPS funding earmarked for Wisconsin.
In addition to budget votes, in 2013 the Senate passed the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act, which would have required background checks for all gun sales, banned so-called gun straw purchases from fire and provided grants to schools to increase safety. Johnson voted for a amendment to the bill that would have withheld 5% of law enforcement grants from state and localities that released data on gun ownership.
The amendment passed, but the bill did not make it back to the United States House.
Barnes’ record on public safety
Johnson also voted against the American Rescue Plan Act in 2021. The federal COVID-19 relief package included $10 billion in federal funding for public safety. In Wisconsin, Governor Tony Evers and Barnes directed $19 million of the state’s share of that funding to local police departments.
The Evers-Barnes administration also sent $20 million of ARPA funds to Milwaukee County for criminal justice and public safety programs and an additional $16 million to reduce the backlog of criminal cases in Milwaukee’s court system. the condition caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A spokesperson for Barnes said in a statement that public safety is a personal matter for him, that he is dedicated to both investing in law enforcement and preventing crime before it happens. produce.
“As someone who has lost countless friends to gun violence and crime, Mandela Barnes remains deeply committed to the fight for public safety by giving law enforcement the tools they need to ensure our safety while investing in the things that help prevent crime in the first place,” Barnes campaign spokeswoman Lauren Chou said. “Meanwhile, Ron Johnson will play politics with our safety by voting against funding law enforcement and supporting an insurgency that injured 140 police officers.”
While in the Legislative Assembly, Barnes co-wrote a invoice it would have increased the sentence for harassing, intimidating, threatening or harming a public official, including law enforcement officers. Another bill he co-authored reportedly created a grant program for counties to create a “community attorney” position that would pay an assistant district attorney to work with community leaders and groups to prevent crime.
In 2016, he presented a invoice this would have required the state’s Attorney General to notify law enforcement if a person convicted of a felony and therefore ineligible to own a firearm attempted to purchase one.
Barnes, as Johnson and outside groups who support him have pointed out, also introduced a invoice this would have ended the use of cash bail in Wisconsin. The bill would have required defendants to be released before trial unless a court found there was a ‘substantial risk’ the defendant would not show up for trial or cause harm. serious bodily harm to a member of the community.
On the same day the cash bail bill was introduced, Barnes introduced another invoice which would have established a grant program for counties that use a risk assessment tool to determine whether defendants pose a flight risk or a threat to public safety.
Barnes pushed back against Republican efforts to link him to controversial slogans about defunding the police and abolishing ICE.
“I don’t support defunding the police, and I don’t support abolishing ICE,” he says, “but there’s no doubt that our immigration system is broken. So I support comprehensive immigration reform from the bottom up,”Barnes tell the examiner In March. “We don’t have to choose between ensuring our law enforcement officers have the resources they need to keep us safe and investing in communities. We can do both. We can get ahead of the problem and also prevent crime in our community by investing in schools, well-paying jobs for every individual to work hard and seek success regardless of their zip code,” he said. he adds.
Much of the outside money in the race, and many of the ads, comes from the Wisconsin Truth PAC, an organization widely supported by right-wing billionaires including Diane Hendricks and Dick and Liz Uihlein. The PAC has raised $10.2 million so far this year, including $6.5 million from Hendricks and an additional $3.5 million from the Uihleins.
The PAC spent $10.5 million against Barnes, the second most of any group seeking to influence the race. The Senate Leadership Fund, linked to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), spent $11 million against Barnes.
Outside spending against Barnes greatly exceeded spending against Johnson, with the combined $21 million in spending by the two groups accounting for nearly all of the $25 million spent to keep Barnes out of office.
The Wisconsin Truth PAC’s $10 million went largely to fund ads depicting Barnes as soft on crime. Some of the advertisements, which some groups have called racist, showing video of the crimes committed while warning that Barnes is “dangerous” and wants to free criminals on the streets of Wisconsin. One of the announcements shows a video clip of a man wearing a ski mask grabbing a child and throwing him into the back of a van.
Polls showed Johnson slightly ahead in the race against Barnes. Election day is November 8.
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