Republican legislative leaders in Madison are moving forward with plans to dismantle the state’s nonpartisan elections and ethics agency, and will likely act this fall. State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says discussions are underway, within his Senate GOP caucus and with the Assembly.
“My personal preference is to go back to kind of the balanced approach that we had in the previous elections board, and then with a separate ethics board as well,” Fitzgerald said.
In 2007, lawmakers of both of political parties signed off on the legislation which created the Government Accountability Board to oversee state campaign and elections law. Now however, the agency has drawn fire from Republicans. GOP leadership have cited GAP participation in a pair of John Doe investigations surrounding Governor Scott Walker – one targeting his office when he was Milwaukee County executive and another that was looking in to potentially illegal coordination between his campaign and conservative groups during the 2012 recall election. Republicans have argued both investigations were politically motivated.
Governor Scott Walker has called for replacing the agency entirely, with something that would be “more accountable” to the public. “We have been for some time trying to come up with something we think will make sense not only to the caucus members, but to the governor’s office, because they have a stake in this, too,” Fitzgerald said.
Advocates for the GAB say the agency functioning as intended – as a nonpartisan agency to oversee elections and ethics. “There was no Republican opposition (in 2007), and now of course, Republicans are leading the opposition to the nonpartisan GAB and want to establish a partisan entity,” said Jay Heck with Common Cause in Wisconsin.