- Associated Press - Thursday, June 28, 2018

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel branded his Democratic counterparts challenging President Donald Trump’s family separation immigration policy “activists” and defended his decision not to sue opioid manufacturers during a luncheon Thursday.

Democratic attorney generals in 17 states filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging Trump’s policy of separating children from parents when families are caught crossing the border illegally, calling the initiative cruel and inhumane.

Schimel, who is running for re-election, was asked during a wide-ranging question-and-answer session at a WisPolitics.com luncheon in Madison whether he has any interest in joining the lawsuit. He said no one asked his office to join, immigration is a federal issue that has little impact in Wisconsin, and he’s not an “activist” like the attorney generals who filed the lawsuit.

“The states that did this, I don’t know if they reached out to any Republican states, but they didn’t reach out to this attorney general and ask us. And no, I don’t have any interest in that because immigration is a federal issue. And the impact on our state is minimal,” Schimel said. “When you talk about the lawsuits some of the Democratic AGs have filed, those are very definition of activism by an attorney general. I’m not an activist. … We enforce the rule of law.”

Schimel faces Democrat Josh Kaul, a former federal prosecutor, in November’s election. Kaul spokeswoman Gillian Drummond said Schimel cares only about being seen as a Trump ally.

“This shows how out of touch Brad Schimel is,” Drummond said. “Separating kids from their parents is an outrage and it’s inconsistent with our values. But instead of doing the right thing and speaking out, our attorney general is apparently more concerned with standing with Donald Trump.”

The attorney general also defended his decision not to sue prescription opioid manufacturers.

Purdue Pharma and other drugmakers are facing hundreds of lawsuits from all levels of government across the country alleging they exacerbated the opioid crisis with deceptive marketing. Schimel, however, has not filed a lawsuit on Wisconsin’s behalf.

Campaign finance records show Schimel accepted a $250 contribution from Purdue Pharma in 2016 and a $500 contribution from pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline’s political action committee last year.

Schimel told the audience that he has joined a multistate investigation of the pharmaceutical industry and that offers a faster path to a monetary settlement. A lawsuit could take as long as a decade to play out, he said.

Wisconsin Justice Department spokesman Johnny Koremenos said in an email to The Associated Press after the luncheon that the investigation allows states more access to documents through expansive, subpoena-like civil investigative demands. The means the investigating states can avoid protracted legal battles to obtain information from the companies.

As for the campaign contributions from the industry, Schimel said he didn’t know he had gotten a contribution from Purdue Pharma until he read about it in the newspaper.

“They’re not influencing anything we do,” he said. “No one involved in that investigation has any notion that anybody is off the hook.”

Schimel drew chuckles when an audience member asked him what can be done to combat human trafficking. Schimel responded that he blames television character Huggy Bear for perpetuating the idea that prostitution is harmless.

Huggy Bear was a flamboyant pimp and close friend of California police detectives David Starsky and Ken Hutchinson in “Starsky and Hutch,” a series that ran on ABC in the late 1970s. Schimel told reporters after the luncheon that he also feels pimp Halloween costumes further the impression that prostitution doesn’t hurt anyone.

“Breaking through those stereotypes like the old harmless pimp thing is one of the challenges we face,” he said. “We have to stop trivializing it.”


Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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