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Focus in AG race turns to finance complaint, Schimel comment on interracial marriage

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MADISON, Wisconsin — Republican attorney general hopeful Brad Schimel illegally used campaign donations to pay his children's baby sitters, a liberal group alleged in a complaint filed Wednesday with state election officials.

The complaint came the same day that a Democratic state representative told reporters that Schimel said last month he would have had to defend interracial marriage bans if he were an attorney general in the 1950s.

Schimel, the Waukesha County district attorney, is locked in a tight race with Democrat Susan Happ, Jefferson County's district attorney. A Marquette University Law School poll last week showed they're about even as the Nov. 4 election looms.

One Wisconsin Now's complaint to the Government Accountability Board contains campaign finance records that indicate Schimel spent nearly $500 in campaign funds for expenses described as baby-sitting for 16 events between October 2009 and February 2013. The complaint alleges the spending violates a state law that prohibits candidates from spending campaign funds on nonpolitical events.

Schimel, who has served as Waukesha County district attorney since 2006, didn't enter the attorney general race until October 2013. His campaign spokesman, Johnny Koremenos, said in an email that the expenditures came from Schimel's previous campaigns and were clearly reported to the GAB years ago.

"He's being accused by a notorious Madison organization of making sure his own children were safe and cared for properly," Koremenos said.

GAB spokesman Reid Magney said the board had received the complaint but declined further comment.

Meanwhile Wednesday, state Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said during a news conference that Schimel told an Oshkosh cable access program that he would have defended interracial marriage bans.

A video recording of a Sept. 5 interview Schimel gave to cable access program "Eye on Oshkosh" shows Schimel answering questions about his position on Wisconsin's gay marriage ban. A federal appeals court struck down the ban last month.

An interviewer asks Schimel, who has said he would have defended the ban in court because the attorney general is obligated to defend state laws, about his personal views on same-sex marriage.

Schimel replies that he favors traditional marriage between straight couples but that his personal beliefs have no bearing on the job.

The interviewer then asks him if attorney generals in states with interracial marriage bans in the 1950s should have refrained from saying such bans were wrong. Schimel agreed.

Asked if Schimel thought he would be obligated to uphold the law, even though the bans would be seen as absurd in the future, Schimel said yes.

"It might be distasteful to me," Schimel said. "But ... I've got to stay consistent with that as the state's lawyer. It's not my job to pick and choose."

Schimel said in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday evening that "love and the law are colorblind, as they should be." Koremenos added later in the email that to suggest Schimel opposes interracial marriages "is absurd and reeks of desperation."

"He answered a question about the role of the attorney general. ... Of course he is glad that the laws of the land have changed over the years," Koremenos wrote.

Happ responded to Schimel's comments late Wednesday, saying: "The attorney general is not a robot. ... There is a place for independent judgment by the attorney general. Apparently, Brad Schimel disagrees."

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