Wis. Assembly leader enters treatment

  • Article by: SCOTT BAUER
  • Associated Press
  • March 1, 2014 - 6:15 PM

MADISON, Wis. — Embattled Wisconsin state Assembly Majority Leader Bill Kramer's office said Saturday that he has checked into a treatment center while fellow Republicans pushed ahead with plans to strip him of his leadership position amid charges that he sexually harassed multiple women.

Kramer's office released a two-sentence statement saying the Waukesha Republican was entering treatment and would have no further comment. The statement did not say what type of treatment he was seeking.

Two Republicans with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press earlier Saturday that he was being asked to resign among charges that he harassed multiple women Wednesday night in Washington, D.C., and again Thursday on the flight back to Wisconsin.

Then later Saturday, the Assembly Republican leadership released a statement saying they planned to hold a vote Tuesday in an attempt to strip Kramer of his position.

"We believe the serious nature of the alleged incidents require us to ask the Assembly Republican Caucus to remove Rep. Kramer from his position as the Assembly Majority Leader," according to the statement. "It is clear he has lost our trust and confidence."

Kramer, who was elected by Republican Assembly members as majority leader in September, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Republicans who know about the allegations said that GOP Assembly leaders met late Friday to discuss the situation and agreed that Kramer should step down as majority leader. They spoke anonymously because attorneys had not authorized them to comment publicly.

Kramer was also asked to consider whether to resign his seat in the Legislature, the Republicans said.

Kramer, who was first elected in 2006, represents a heavily Republican district and is part of a 60-39 GOP majority in the Assembly. The 49-year-old did not immediately return a phone message or email left at his Capitol office Saturday morning, and no listed home phone number was available for him. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel went to Kramer's home Friday night but he was not there.

Kramer's chief of staff, Cameron Sholty, told the Journal Sentinel that Kramer would be meeting with staff Saturday and talking with fellow Republican lawmakers over the next 48 hours. He declined further comment to the newspaper. No listed home phone number could be found for Sholty.

Kramer and other Republicans from the Senate and Assembly were in Washington on Wednesday for an annual fundraiser held at the offices of lobbying and public relations firm BRG Group.

The Republicans who spoke to the AP said Kramer allegedly groped at least one woman Wednesday night in a bar and said something inappropriate to at least one woman on the flight back Thursday. One Republican told the AP he spoke with the alleged victims and felt the allegations were serious enough to ask Kramer to resign as majority leader.

Kramer, who is single, is an attorney and CPA. He was elected to take over for Scott Suder as majority leader, but the choice divided Assembly Republicans.

The majority leader is second in power only to the speaker of the Assembly. The job involves scheduling bills and directing action during debate.

Kramer was up against Rep. Dean Knudson, and one of Knudson's backers spoke pointedly prior to the vote that Kramer had acted inappropriately in the past.

"That cannot happen ever," Rep. Chris Kapenga said in September. "We can't have sexual innuendos. We can't have bad language in the public."

Kramer is known for his sometimes flamboyant and confrontational style, especially during his previous role presiding over the Assembly.

He often displayed his knack for knowing the legislative district numbers of all 99 members and often broke out into loud laughter while joking with Democrats and Republicans alike.

But he was also visibly testy regarding the frequent protests and interruptions from spectators in the gallery, including during the marathon 61-hour filibuster over the collective bargaining bill in 2011. Kramer was a strict enforcer of Assembly rules barring signs, cameras, clapping or other outbursts.

Kramer also has said he sometimes carries a concealed handgun onto the floor of the Assembly for his own personal safety.

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