Governor Scott Walker this week said he thinks it’s time to replace the Government Accountability Board with an elections agency that is “truly accountable to the people of the state of Wisconsin.”
The call follows a state Supreme Court decision last week that blocked a controversial probe into possibly illegal coordination between Walker’s campaign and conservative groups during the 2012 recall elections. The GAB had worked with prosecutors tied to the case, and several Republicans have argued the agency’s role requires a closer look.
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign executive director Matt Rothschild says Walker’s request is “outrageous,” considering the agency was “just doing its job” by discussing the case with prosecutors. “They had uncovered what appeared to be potentially illegal activities…that was their job. They are in charge of ethics investigations and oversight.”
Rothschild notes the GAB is already accountable to the public in a way, since the governor appoints the retired judges who oversee the agency.
While no official legislative proposal for reforming the GAB has been introduced, Rothschild worries it would set up a more partisan system similar to what was in place before the agency was created in 2007. Under the old State Elections Board, he notes partisan appointees helped clear the stage for the Legislative Caucus Scandal, which saw several top state lawmakers convicted of ethics violations. He argues the board GOP leaders want is one that’s “hand-picked by the party in power.”