March 20, 2011- Even though the state is supposedly broke, top officials in Gov. Scott Walker's team were able to scrape together enough money to give a state job to the woman identified as Sen. Randy Hopper's girlfriend.
Anything for a political ally.
Valerie Cass, a former Republican legislative staffer, was hired 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.
Cass previously had worked in the state Senate and for the GOP campaign consulting firm Persuasion Partners in Madison. She also was paid for campaign work for the state Republican Party and U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner before that.
"Ms. Cass' name was among many forwarded to DRL by the Governor's Transition Team as potential candidates for positions with the department," said David Carlson, the agency's spokesman.
But who exactly recommended her for the post?
Cullen Werwie, spokesman for the governor, confirmed that it was Keith Gilkes, Walker's chief of staff. She was then interviewed by the Department of Regulations and Licensing's executive assistant and deputy and hired by Secretary Dave Ross, a Walker cabinet member.
An internal staff directory lists Cass as working in the secretary's office as the assistant to the executive assistant.
Werwie said Gilkes did not recommend her as a favor to the first-term lawmaker, who voted for the governor's controversial budget-repair bill earlier this month.
"That's certainly not the case," Werwie said.
Cass did not return calls last week.
Hopper is expected to face a tough recall battle following his vote on the budget bill, which curbs collective bargaining for public employees. The Fond du Lac Republican won his seat by just 163 votes in 2008.
Since the recall effort was launched, news outlets and bloggers have focused in on Hopper's pending divorce. His estranged wife, Alysia, issued a statement to WTMJ-TV (Channel 4) accusing Hopper, 45, of beginning an affair with Cass, 26, last year. He filed for divorce in August.
"Randy is the love of my life," she said in the statement. "This divorce and the lack of any attempt to save our marriage is solely his decision not mine."
There have been conflicting reports on whether she or the family's maid signed Hopper's recall petition. Democratic Party sources have told No Quarter that Hopper's estranged wife has agreed to give to his opponent, whoever that may be.
Hopper has maintained that he had nothing to do with Cass' recent appointment to the state job.
Interestingly, Cass' name does not appear on a lengthy list of job applicants to Walker's transition team.
Werwie said that's because she put her name in the mix late in the process.