BY A 4-2 VOTE this week Wisconsin’s brand new partisan ethics commission decided, well, there’s no need to get all fussy or inflexible about things.
Two commissioners — Democrat Robert Kinney and Republican Pat Strachota — asked the others to support a ban on members giving money to support the campaigns of the very people the commission is supposed to police and regulate. The other four members — Democrats Peg Lautenschlager and David Halbrooks, and Republicans Laurie McCallum and Mac Davis — refused to give up the option of making partisan donations.
Kinney stated the matter clearly: “We have, right now, people claiming that elections are rigged. We don’t want to create a situation where there’s less confidence in government, less confidence in fairness, less confidence in nonpartisanship.”
APPARENTLY PUBLIC perception of commissioners’ deep partisan interests holds no concern for the majority of both Democrats and Republicans on this misbegotten commission.
Remember, it’s barely weeks old. And right out of the gate the loud and clear message is that partisan loyalties trump whatever concerns the people might exhibit over impartiality or conflicts of interest.
Common Cause Director Jay Heck, a leading good-government advocate in Wisconsin, said, “This is insanity. ... Just how stupid do they think Wisconsinites are? The nonpartisan retired judges, who comprised the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board prior to June 30, 2016, did not make political contributions to candidates for state office. But these commissioners ... decided, ‘it’s fine.’ No, it isn’t. How far we have fallen, so quickly.”