Peg Lautenschlager

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Peg Lautenschlager
Peg Lautenschlager Headshot.jpg
1st Chair of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission
In office
July 11, 2016 – April 8, 2017
Preceded by Commission established
Succeeded by David R. Halbrooks
42nd Attorney General of Wisconsin
In office
January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2007
Preceded by Jim Doyle
Succeeded by J. B. Van Hollen
United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin
In office
Appointed by Bill Clinton
Preceded by Kevin C. Potter
Succeeded by J. B. Van Hollen
Member of the Wisconsin State Assembly
from the 52nd district
In office
Personal details
Born (1955-11-22) November 22, 1955 (age 62)
Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Bill Rippl
Children 5
Residence Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

Peggy A. "Peg" Lautenschlager (born November 22, 1955) was the first chair of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission.[1][2] She was Attorney General of the State of Wisconsin from January 3, 2003 to January 3, 2007. She succeeded fellow Democrat Jim Doyle when Doyle was elected Governor of Wisconsin in 2002. Lautenschlager is the first woman to have been elected Attorney General in the State of Wisconsin.[3]

She was unsuccessful in her September 2006 bid for re-election as the Democratic Party candidate, and became the first incumbent Wisconsin Attorney General to lose a primary in 58 years.[4]

Early life and career[edit]

Lautenschlager is a native of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin and still resides there. Lautenschlager is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Lake Forest College 1977, majoring in history and mathematics. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in June 1980.

Public service[edit]

From July 1985 to December 1988, Lautenschlager was District Attorney for Winnebago County, the first woman elected to the office. Lautenschlager is a former member of the Wisconsin State Elections Board, the Governor's Council on Domestic Abuse, the Democratic National Committee and the Oshkosh Rape Crisis Center.[5]

Prior to her service as district attorney, she was an attorney in private practice in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, specializing in family and domestic abuse law. She served as a member of the adjunct faculties of the University of Wisconsin Law School, the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh, and Ripon College, and served as interim circuit court commissioner of Winnebago County.[6]

Lautenschlager was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly in 1988, unseating a 32-year Republican incumbent. She served from 1989 to 1993 representing the Fond du Lac area. She chaired the Assembly Select Committee on Drug Enforcement, Education, and Treatment and Subcommittee on Corrections Systems Concerns. She also served on the Committees on Criminal Justice, Elections and Constitutional Law, Environmental Resources, Utilities and Mining, Natural Resources, Judiciary, and Education. She served as Vice-chair of Legislative Counsel Committees on Drug Enforcement and Review of Sexual Assault Laws. She decided not to seek re-election in 1992, and instead campaigned for the congressional seat held by incumbent U.S. Rep. Tom Petri. She narrowly lost in what was an unexpectedly close race.[7]

U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin[edit]

In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Lautenschlager the United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, a position for which she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and held until April 2001. In that capacity, she was the chief federal law enforcement officer for the state's westernmost 44 counties. In 1996, Lautenschlager was appointed by Janet Reno to serve on the 15-member Attorney General's Advisory Committee. She was the first Wisconsinite ever selected to serve on the committee.[8][9]

Attorney General of Wisconsin[edit]

She was elected in 2002 as a Democrat to the office of Attorney General, succeeding Jim Doyle who successfully ran for governor. Her campaign raised more money than any previous Democratic campaign for that office. She defeated Vince Biskupic, the Republican candidate, 52% to 48%, despite being outspent by about $200,000. Currently, she is a practicing lawyer and a part-time politics professor at Ripon College, in addition to serving as Chair of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission.[10]


In February 2004, Lautenschlager made national headlines after pleading guilty to drunk driving in Dodge County, about an hour away from Madison.[11] A Dodge County sheriff's deputy reported to the scene to find her state-owned vehicle in the ditch, and her unharmed inside. Her preliminary breathalizer test at the scene showed that her blood alcohol level was 0.12, 50% above the legal limit of 0.08.[12] The police report stated that she refused a blood test. Lautenschlager said that she had fallen asleep at the wheel, and had consumed only two glasses of wine earlier that evening. She was arrested, and later released to her husband. (Dodge County Case Number 2004TR001348) A state Ethics Board investigated Lautenschlager's case and ruled that some use of the state car for personal use exceeded state-allowed limits. Lautenschlager reimbursed some of the costs and paid a fine of $784. Her driver's license was also revoked for a year.

She was profiled in the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer.[13][14]

Re-election Campaign[edit]

In 2006, Lautenschlager faced a Democratic challenger, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, a 2002 candidate for Governor and former Assistant Attorney General. Lautenschlager lost the Democratic nomination to Falk. Falk later lost the general election to former Western District of Wisconsin U.S. Attorney J. B. Van Hollen.[15]


She is married to Bill Rippl, a retired police officer from the city of Neenah, Wisconsin, and has three children and two stepchildren. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004.

Electoral history[edit]

  • 1992 Race for U.S. House of Representatives – 6th District
    • Tom Petri (R) (inc.), 53%
    • Peg Lautenschlager (D), 47%
  • 2002 Race for Attorney General
    • Peg Lautenschlager (D), 52%
    • Vince Biskupic (R), 48%
  • 2006 Race for Attorney General – Democratic Primary


Legal offices
Preceded by
Jim Doyle
Attorney General of Wisconsin
Succeeded by
J. B. Van Hollen