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A recent story published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explains Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel spent $10,000 on coins promoting his motto of “kicking ass every day” (or “K.A.E.D.”).
And according to the report, Schimel isn’t the first Department of Justice head to buy challenge coins on the taxpayer’s dime.
In the past 18 months, Schimel reportedly ordered 2,000 gold-plated brass coins from Florida’s Lexington Metal Products. Engraved on one side of the coin is “Wisconsin Attorney General Brad D. Schimel” while the other side reads “”Wisconsin Department of Justice: K.A.E.D.” The seal of the state of Wisconsin is also depicted on the coins.
Department of Justice spokesman Johnny Koremenos told the Sentinel these coins—known as challenge coins—are common in military and law enforcement as a reward and a morale boost. Koremenos also noted former attorney general J.B. Van Hollen purchased similar coins during his 2007-15 term.
Van Hollen made three separate purchases from Lexington Metal Products in 2013 and 2014 for a total cost of $6,419. These include 125 challenge coins engraved with the name “Crime Laboratory Bureau;” 125 coins engraved with “Wisconsin Attorney General: J.B. Van Hollen;” and 1,000 coins engraved with the name “Crime Information Bureau.”
According to the Sentinel, this wasn’t Schimel’s first foray into challenge coins. He previously made a purchase in 2015, when he spent $1,554 on 300 coins engraved with the name “Training & Standards Bureau.”
Altogether, it’s estimated department officials have paid Lexington Metal Products more than $17,500 for various challenge coins in the past four years.
‘EGREGIOUS EXAMPLE OF GOVERNMENT WASTE’
In response to Schimel’s expenditure, Wisconsin State Representative Daniel Riemer drafted a bill to cut Schimel’s annual salary by $10,000 to recoup the cost of the coins. Schimel’s annual salary is $142,966.
“When asked about the frivolous purchase of 10,000 fake coins, Schimel’s aide responded by calling the inquiry into the waste of taxpayer funds ‘trivial and not a high priority.’ There is nothing trivial about protecting taxpayer money. In spite of what the Attorney General’s office tells us, it is the highest priority for lawmakers and public servants,” said Riemer, a third-term Democrat, in a press release on Jan. 10.
“To put this in perspective, undergraduate in-state tuition at UW-La Crosse is $9,214 for the 2016-2017 school year, at UW-Eau Claire in-state tuition amounts to $8,800, and for UW-Milwaukee in-state tuition will be $9,543 for the 2017-2018 school year. The money Attorney General Schimel wasted on fake coins from an out-of-state company could have paid for a Wisconsin resident to cover tuition at a number of UW schools for a whole year.”
“That, to me, is an egregious example of government waste,” Riemer told the Sentinel.
In response to Riemer’s bill, Koremenos reiterated the coins serve as Schimel’s “challenge to the team at DOJ and recognition of the amazing work done for the citizens of Wisconsin every day.”
CANADIAN CHALLENGE COINS
According to ChallengeCoins.ca, the challenge coin can trace its origins back to the First World War.
“The challenger presents his/her coin to the challenged. If the challenged individual fails to produce their coin, they buy the challenger a drink. If the challenged individual produces their coin, and it is a previous edition of the unit coin, they buy the challenger a drink. If the challenged individual produces their coin, and it is the current edition of the unit coin, the challenger buys the challenged a drink.”
In April 2016, Chatham Kent Police Service (CKPS) Deputy Chief Jeff Littlewood responded to claims the CKPS challenge coins promoted “alcohol consumption of the members by upper management.”
A story published by the Chatham Voice explains an email was sent anonymously “for fear of reprisal for providing this information.” The e-mailer wrote challenge coins are a waste of taxpayer’s money, allegedly referring to their issuance as “another example of the constant ineptitude displayed by the upper management of this Service in regards to the mismanagement of money and the poor management of the rank and file.”
Like Koremenos, Littlewood told the Voice the coins promote a sense of identity and spirit among members of the police force.
“The coins are an established method of showing pride and identification in the service,” Littlewood said, adding the coins cost about $500 Cdn. “I would say the letter writer is someone who has an axe to grind, but the intent of the coin has been misrepresented.”