By Shereen Siewert
The Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC on Wednesday announced a class action federal lawsuit against the Waukesha School Board, its members and the superintendent, for failing to adhere to CDC-recommended COVID-19 protocols in the classroom.
The political action committee, spearheaded by former Democratic candidate Kirk Bangstad, promised in September to take action “against every school board in Wisconsin that isn’t mandating masks for kids too young to get the vaccine” and “not following CDC guidelines.” Bangstad promises an additional complaint will be filed later Wednesday in the Eastern District of Wisconsin to grant an immediate injunction forcing Waukesha to comply with CDC guidelines and to identify all the other school districts in the Eastern District with guidelines similar to Waukesha to be included in the defendant class.
“We noticed that outside of the more sane urban areas of Wisconsin where school districts are still using science to protect children from the very contagious Delta variant, there has been a groundswell of obnoxious and very loud anti-intellectual, anti-mask, and anti-science voices overrunning school boards in the ‘burbs and in more rural areas,” Bangstad said, in a Sept. 26 post. “A large majority of parents are feeling helpless because they see Covid cases skyrocketing in their school districts, and absolutely nothing being done to prevent it.”
Disputes over COVID-19 protocols, including mask policies, have become hot-button topics for parents, students and educators on both sides of the issue.
Bangstad said that schools are essentially causing daily “super spreader events ” by not adhering to CDC guidelines. He said he hopes the lawsuit will trigger school insurance companies to force districts into compliance.
Future lawsuits are planned that will target school administrators from the Western District, Bangstad said. Marathon County lies within the Western District, where action could be filed as early as this week.
Bangstad said the Super PAC’s attorney will use a “public nuisance” argument to persuade judges in both districts to provide injunctive relief against all school boards “actively promoting daily super spreader events by not forcing kids in schools to wear masks and socially distance.”
Critics say that amounts to “judge shopping,” a practice in which a plaintiff files multiple identical lawsuits in the hope of finding a judge who will both hear the suit and rule in their favor.
But Bangstad, in his posts, says the lawsuits are about public safety. The Super PAC has raised roughly $50,000 over the past week to pay lawyers, infectious disease experts and epidemiologists to work on the case.
“If you’re worried about your kid or grandkid getting Covid, and in turn giving it to you, because anti-science nut jobs are playing politics with school safety, consider chipping in for this lawsuit,” he posted on Facebook. “These lawsuits are the very definition of doing something for the ‘Public Good.’ We have had enough selfish ‘My Freedom is more important than Public Health’ sentiment in this state and country.
The Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC is also under legal fire after the Republican Party of Wisconsin filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission alleging multiple campaign finance violations.
“While the Minocqua Brewing Company purports to send 5 percent of their profits to their PAC, they fail to report any such transfer, or to disclose these donors in campaign finance reports,” according to WisPolitics.com.
The complaint alleges the Super PAC also failed to include required disclaimer notices on solicitations for donations, failed to file required reports for an independent expenditure and unlawfully used corporate funds to provide direct support to federal candidates, WisPolitics.com reports.
The Republican Party of Wisconsin released the following statement from Executive Director Mark Jefferson:
“It appears that Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC has repeatedly failed to play by the rules. Though their spending hasn’t yielded any significant results, ineffectiveness does not excuse illegal activity and the FEC needs to take action.”
So far, the PACER system, which gives online access to federal court filings, does not list a complaint against the Waukesha School District. Attempts to reach Waukesha district officials were not immediately successful on Wednesday.