Republican state Senator Randy Hopper now knows exactly what it feels like to have his dirty laundry aired for the world to see. It's not pretty.
The two-year senator from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin is in the midst of efforts to recall him from office for his actions against worker rights and fair procedures, and the Milwaukee-based WTMJ-TV has received a letter from his estranged wife accusing him of having an affair with a young woman he supervised. In the Wisconsin Senate, Hopper serves on the "Children and Families and Workforce Development Committee."
Hopper's record in the Senate includes his support for the efforts of Scott Walker, the controversial new governor, to reduce taxes for businesses while cutting rights and benefits of employees. Notably, along with Republican Senate Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Hopper co-sponsored a bill to benefit millionaire businessmen by cutting taxes on capital gains and thus cutting revenues for the state. Hopper's proposal, Senate Bill 28, sought to change Wisconsin law, which already provided an income tax exclusion for individuals for 60 percent of the net capital gains realized from the sale of assets held for at least one year.
But Hopper wanted even more. Under his proposed law, "an individual; an individual partner or member of a partnership, limited liability company, or limited liability partnership; or an individual shareholder of a tax−option corporation (claimant) may subtract from federal adjusted gross income the amount of capital gain, not to exceed $10,000,000 in a taxable year, realized from the sale of any asset held more than one year" if they invest the gain in a Wisconsin business (with no limitation on that business then paying the millions back to the investor as salary or other income). That is, Hopper sought to use his post in the Senate to allow businesses or CEOs literally to write-off up to $10,000,000 in income to avoid taxes on that income, and that give-away would apply to any number of CEOs and businesses in the state, reducing by millions of dollars the tax revenues needed to pay for essential services and benefits for children and families in Wisconsin. The bill did not pass during his first term in the Senate.
Hopper's wife states that the adulterous affair has proceeded while he has been living outside of his voting district. For a full year. The TMJ Web site reported that: "TMJ4 received a letter from a woman claiming to be Randy Hopper's wife, Alysia Hopper. The letter arrived on a letterhead envelope from Alysia Hopper's business. The letter claims Randy Hopper, "started an affair in January 2010 with a then 25 year old Republican aide." It claims "Randy moved out" and "now lives mostly in Madison."
Wisconsin state law requires a legislature to live in the Senate district he or she represents. But, The Green Bay Press Gazette reported that "a Government Accountability Board spokesman said the law permits a temporary absence as long as the lawmaker intends to move back into the district."
And even though the state is deeply in debt, the women in the middle of the ugly marital dispute has been given a position with the state.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Valerie Cass, Hopper's 25-year-old girlfriend, was "hired on Feb. 7 as a communications specialist with the state Department of Regulation and Licensing. She is being paid $20.35 per hour. The job is considered a temporary post."
"According to a Madison TV report, Cass received a substantial pay raise over her predecessor."
Cass was a previous staff member in the state Senate, campaign work for U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner and also worked for Persuasion Partners, a Republican campaign consulting firm.
David Carlson, Department of Regulation and Licensing spokesperson, maintains there was no influence on the decision to hire Cass.
"Ms. Cass' name was among many forwarded to DRL by the Governor's Transition Team as potential candidates for positions with the department," said Carlson. She was then recommended by Keith Gilkes, Walker's chief of staff and hired by Secretary Dave Ross, a Walker cabinet member.
Hopper is one of the several legislators who are facing recall efforts as a result of their support for Governor Walker's budget-repair bill. Hopper may be one of the most vulnerable senators of the 16, as recall supporters begin to collect petition signatures to force a new election. Petitioners from the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board March have been out in force gathering signatures for a recall 2. The Capitol Times in Madison says that "by law, the committee has 60 days to collect 15,629 signatures to recall the Republican lawmaker." Their recall plea was submitted on March 2. Alysia Hopper promises to sign the petition to recall him. (Some of the senators facing recall have voted for legislation undermining the rights of employees; others have been targeted by pro-Walker supporters, including anti-labor activists from Utah, as CMD has reported.)
Hopper has apparently set up a campaign office, as an undisclosed location in Fond du Lac, in anticipation of the recall. Mike Trevey of TMJ4 reported that, "Hopper campaign spokesman Jeff Harvey indicated, "Senator Hopper maintains an apartment in the district where he lives and works. He and his wife separated roughly a year ago and are divorcing, which is a private family matter."
But the online Fond du Lac County property tax map shows the address is not an apartment. It is a roughly $600,000 home owned by a high-ranking employee of Hopper's media company, Mountain Dog Media. That is a big "apartment." Hopper is the owner of CHR "Z95.5" KFIZ and AC "K107" WFON in Fond du Lac, and all-sports "ESPN 950" WCLB in Sheboygan. Matt Phillips, Hopper's policy advisor, says Hopper's official address will be his family home that he shared with his family until their divorce is final.