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Harsdorf campaign dismisses pay-for-play allegations as 'outrageous'

Sheila Harsdorf’s camp fired back after left-wing groups and Democratic critics accused her of taking part in so-called “pay for play” politics.

The state senator from River Falls was among Republican lawmakers who were linked to a special-interest group -- bolstered by funding from a lead-paint manufacturer -- during the 2012 recall elections, according to documents leaked to The Guardian U.S., which published a story this week. Left-leaning critics say Harsdorf sat on a key legislative panel that passed legislation that Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed protecting lead-paint manufacturers from lawsuits.

On Thursday, Harsdorf campaign spokesman Neil Kline called the allegations a “desperate” attempt by Democrats to regain control at the Capitol “without an ounce of proof.

“The facts are that Sheila has never met or communicated with the individual identified in the article, nor has this person ever contributed to Sheila’s campaign,” Kline said in a statement.

According to The Guardian article:

“The John Doe files reveal that the billionaire owner of NL Industries, one of America's leading producers of lead used in paint until the ban, secretly donated $750,000 to Wisconsin Club for Growth at a time when Walker and his fellow Republican senators were fighting their recall elections. Also in the same time-frame, the Republican-controlled senate passed, and Walker signed into law, legal changes that attempted to grant effective immunity to lead manufacturers from any compensation claims for lead paint poisoning.”

Critics waging allegations against Harsdorf include the progressive group One Wisconsin Now, which said Wisconsin Club for Growth spent attack money on Harsdorf’s recall opponent.

Harsdorf’s 2016 Democratic challenger for the Senate District 10 seat, River Falls City Council member Diane Odeen, also sought answers.

“Why did Senator Harsdorf choose to protect lead paint manufacturers instead of our kids?” Odeen said in a news release. “Pay-to-play corruption has no place in our government.”

Kline dismissed the notion.

“While the truth may be inconvenient for left-wing spin groups and Senate Democrats as they make these outrageous claims, Sheila is focused on the issues that matter to residents of Polk County, such as creating jobs, addressing heroin and meth addiction and property tax relief,” Kline’s statement reads.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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