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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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
Email from Mattias Gugel, communications director for Sen. Tom Tiffany, April 20, 2020.
Andrea Palm, LinkedIn, accessed April 21, 2020.
Executive team bios, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, accessed April 21, 2020.
Cabinet, Governor Tony Evers, accessed April 21, 2020.
About the governor, Governor Tony Evers, accessed April 21, 2020.
About the Department of Health Services, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, accessed April 21, 2020.
Merriam-Webster, accessed April 21, 2020.
Profile: Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm, WisPolitics, April 12, 2019.
Republican lawmakers keep job of Wisconsin's point person on coronavirus in limbo, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 13, 2020.
Republican lawmakers are planning to ask the Supreme Court to block Evers' stay-at-home order extension, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 17, 2020.
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