A decision by the state’s newly formed Ethics Commission not to stop members from making political donations is drawing criticism.
The partisan-appointed panel voted 4-2 Tuesday to table a provision that would have barred members from giving money to the candidates and elected officials they are charged with regulating. Members defended the move, saying they did not believe it will influence their ability to consider issues before the commission, which oversees issues such as campaign finance and lobbying complaints, in an impartial way.
Common Cause in Wisconsin executive director Jay Heck called the decision “insanity” though, and argued it should raise serious questions about the future effectiveness of the agency. “The public perception is that if those ‘arbiters’ have been making political contributions themselves, then they really are not at a proper arms-length distance to be able to judge fairly and impartially,” he said.
AUDIO: CCW executive director Jay Heck says the policy marks a major shift (1:17)
Members of the agency’s predecessor, the Government Accountability Board, could not make political contributions and staff at the Ethics Commission is still barred from making donations. Heck says carrying over that policy entirely would have made sense.