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Andrea Palm, head of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, left, and Gov. Tony Evers in Madison. (Associated Press). Andrea Palm, head of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, left, and Gov. Tony Evers in Madison. (Associated Press).

Andrea Palm, head of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, left, and Gov. Tony Evers in Madison. (Associated Press).

Haley BeMiller
By Haley BeMiller April 22, 2020

State Health Secretary Andrea Palm is not from Wisconsin, but Sen. Tom Tiffany muddled his point

If Your Time is short

 

  • Sen. Tom Tiffany called Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm “a career bureaucrat with no past ties to Wisconsin.”

  • Palm’s resume proves she’s not a Badger.

  • But Tiffany muddles his point by not identifying Palm and instead giving readers the impression he’s talking about Gov. Tony Evers, a Wisconsin native.

Wisconsin Republicans continue to blast Gov. Tony Evers and his administration as the state remains shuttered to combat the spread of the coronavirus. 

A popular target of their ire: Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm. Republican leaders of the state Legislature went to court on April 21, 2020 to try to curb Palm’s power during a health emergency, contending she has "laid claim to a suite of czar-like powers."

State Sen. Tom Tiffany, a Minocqua Republican, previewed that sentiment in an April 20 Facebook post. Tiffany is also running for the open 7th Congressional District seat in the May 12 special election.

In his post, Tiffany criticized the administration's move to extend Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order to late May and pledged action by state Republicans. It went on to say: "The power grab by a career bureaucrat with no past ties to Wisconsin will be challenged. A plan to safely and responsibly reopen will be created."

While Evers is the only one mentioned in the post, the order itself was issued by Palm, who oversees the Department of Health Services even though she has not been confirmed by the GOP-controlled Senate.

And Tiffany argued he was referring to Palm as the career bureaucrat.

How does the senator’s claim hold up?

Andrea Palm: A history lesson

Evers tapped Palm in January 2019 to run one of the state’s largest agencies, which oversees an $11.5 billion budget, more than 6,000 employees and several programs, including Medicaid. The Senate has yet to confirm her appointment, and some senators want to fire her — even as she helps guide the state through a public health crisis. 

An aide for Tiffany pointed to two biographies of Palm and her LinkedIn page to back up Tiffany’s claim.

Let’s see what they say:

Prior to her arrival in Wisconsin, Palm spent three years as senior counselor to the Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama. She’s held other positions at HHS as well, including chief of staff and counselor to the secretary for science and public health.

She also worked for five years as a senior health policy adviser to then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton and, before that, was the legislative director for former U.S. Rep. Bob Matsui, a California Democrat. 

Palm earned a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and went on to get her master’s at Washington University in St. Louis. According to WisPolitics, she was born in Star Lake, NY.

So, Palm is not a Badger. What about a career bureaucrat?

Featured Fact-check

Merriam-Webster defines a bureaucrat as a member of a bureaucracy, which is "a body of nonelected government officials" or "an administrative policy-making group."

Palm’s resume shows she has a long career in administration with an emphasis on health policy. By definition, that makes her a bureaucrat. Whether one views that as a bad thing, as Tiffany does, is a matter of opinion. 

Case closed?

Not quite.

Before Tiffany referenced Palm in his Facebook post, he went on a tirade against Evers.

"Last week, Governor Tony Evers deflated the hopes of people across Wisconsin with the announcement of shutting down the state through May," he said. "Most people understood constraining their lives through April 24. Unfortunately Governor Evers provided no plan for the future."

When he refers to Palm, he says in full: "The power grab by a career bureaucrat with no past ties to Wisconsin will be challenged."

But Tiffany never names the health secretary. The only person he directly identifies is Evers. That leaves readers with the impression that he’s discussing the governor — who was born in Plymouth, attended the University of Wisconsin and worked for 10 years as the state’s superintendent of public instruction.

As for the "power grab?"

That’s Tiffany’s opinion, and a question ultimately for the Supreme Court. But it is worth noting that — as the COVID-19 fallout has shown — Palm and Evers, like other governors and health officials, have broad powers in the face of such a crisis.

Our ruling

In a Facebook post, Tiffany called Palm "a career bureaucrat with no past ties to Wisconsin."

One problem: He doesn’t tell people he’s talking about the health secretary. At first glance, it seems as if Tiffany is targeting Evers, who has deep ties to Wisconsin.

That leaves us with a statement that’s accurate but needs clarification or additional information.

We rate Tiffany’s claim Mostly True.

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More by Haley BeMiller

State Health Secretary Andrea Palm is not from Wisconsin, but Sen. Tom Tiffany muddled his point

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