Fact check: Mailer accusing Feehan of abuse raises eyebrows

The race for the 32nd Senate District is in the home stretch, but a new political mailer is raising some eyebrows.

In the flyer, Democrat Jennifer Shilling’s campaign accuses Republican challenger Bill Feehan of domestic abuse.

The mailer is big. It folds out. It has multiple sides. It’s meant to get your attention.

It accuses Feehan of beating up on his ex-girlfriend 12 years ago.

Feehan calls the mailer a “gross distortion.”

His wife, Sue Kolve-Feehan, walked into their kitchen on Tuesday and went to check out some mail lying on the counter.

She saw a mug shot of her husband staring back at her.

“It was horrible, actually. And then, as I opened it, I just became more angry,” said Kolve-Feehan.

The mailer includes a portion of a criminal complaint against him from 2000 that said he choked his ex-girlfriend, threw her on the ground and hit her on the head.

“I’ve said from the very beginning that that is not what happened,” said Feehan.


Feehan didn’t want to go into details about what did happen that night.

“I’m not going to get into all of the he-said she-said part of it,” said Feehan.

The criminal complaint shows he was charged with misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct.

But what the mailer doesn’t mention is that Feehan was never convicted of the battery charge.

In a plea deal, he pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct, and the battery charge was dismissed.

“There comes a point where you have to make a decision about ending what’s a very painful experience for everybody involved, and that’s what I did,” said Feehan.

The mailer also says Feehan said he was not a domestic abuser because he was only caught once.

“I never made that statement,” said Feehan.

The mailer cites an article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published on Aug. 20 that said, “He added that those guilty of domestic abuse do it repeatedly. He said he has only the single allegation from years ago on his record.”

Feehan’s wife says his run-in with the law was something they talked about before he announced his run for state Senate. They decided not to let it hold him back.

“This is the only thing that was buried in Bill’s record that could have ever surfaced,” said Feehan-Kolve. “We openly had a conversation about this and whether the other side would try to entice him not to run because of it. And we said, ‘There’s nothing here to hide.'”

Shilling’s campaign communication director, Tony Palese, said Shilling did not have time in her schedule to do an interview on Wednesday, and neither did anyone else associated with her campaign.

A written statement from the Shilling campaign said:

“Republican State Senate candidate Bill Feehan has said that ‘he expected to be asked about his past run-in with the law’ and that he doesn’t believe he ‘has anything to apologize for.’ In response, Senator Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) released the following statement:

‘Domestic abuse is a very serious problem facing many women and families in our state. I have consistently worked to raise awareness about domestic violence, protect victims, and improve the health and safety of our communities.’

‘I think the facts speak for themselves in this case, and I am confident that voters will go to the polls in November to pick the candidate that they feel best represents their values.'”