Wisconsin lawmaker steals sign that calls GOP 'gropers'

AP

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) A Wisconsin Republican lawmaker admitted Friday that he removed an 80-year-old man's anti-Republican sign from the state Capitol rotunda without permission in May in an effort to uphold "decorum" in the building.

Rep. Dale Kooyenga of Brookfield released a police report detailing the incident, saying in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that he had heard Democrats were trying to obtain the report and he wanted to get out ahead of them.

According to the report, 80-year-old Donald E. Johnson told Capitol Police on May 23 that his permitted sign was missing and it was worth $40. Surveillance video showed Kooyenga walking off with it.

The report said the sign was "very critical of President Trump, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, Governor Scott Walker and the GOP in general." Kooyenga said in the telephone interview with AP that the sign called all the Republicans "gropers" and said "Damn All Republicans."

One of Kooyenga's aides told an officer that the sign was in Kooyenga's office, where the officer recovered it, according to the police report. Police later returned the sign to Johnson.

Kooyenga told a detective that he didn't believe taking the sign was a "big deal." He said he took the sign as a joke and because it contained the words "groper" and "damn" and children in the Capitol saw it.

According to the report, he told the detective that he planned to turn the sign over to the state Department of Administration, which oversees the Capitol building and its police officers. He wasn't aware the sign was permitted, he said.

The detective wrote that he informed Kooyenga of the seriousness of taking others' property. Kooyenga responded it would never be an issue in the future.

Kooyenga, who sits on the Legislature's powerful budget-writing committee, was not cited or charged. The report said the case would be re-opened if officers receive more complaints.

Kooyenga attached a statement to the police report saying that he felt the sign was inappropriate and shouldn't have been in plain view of children.

"I am sorry I took the sign without permission," the statement said. "However I am not sorry for trying to uphold appropriate decorum in our State Capitol."

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Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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