Governor Scott Walker is not saying whether he supports calls for the administrators of the state Ethics and Elections Commissions to resign.
Republican leaders in the Legislature have said the heads of those agencies should step down, following a Department of Justice report that accused them of being slow to cooperate with an investigation into a leak of documents from a John Doe probe that targeted Walker’s campaign and conservative groups. The DOJ argued the leak likely came from the former Government Accountability Board, which was later split into separate ethics and elections agencies by Republicans.
Members of the bipartisan commissions that oversee those agencies have defended their administrators and resisted calls for their resignation.
Asked repeatedly by reporters Friday about whether he agrees with calls for them to resign, Walker said only that he was standing by the attorney general’s findings. “I think the Department of Justice’s report speaks for itself,” Walker said multiple times when pressed to comment.
AUDIO: Gov. Walker responds to requests for comment (2:05)
Attorney General Brad Schimel has not recommended anyone resign, although Walker noted those comments came after the report had been issued.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald on Friday said he believes his caucus will not support confirming the appointments of Ethics Commission administrator Brian Bell or Elections Commission administrator Mike Haas. “Any leftover remnants of the partisan GAB will never have the confidence of the public to ensure complete non-partisanship in the administration of elections or the oversight of government ethics,” Fitzgerald said in a statement.
The Juneau Republican also indicated that, if they refuse to resign, they will not be confirmed. “Absent resignations, I will take up Administrators Haas and Bell’s appointments during the senate’s January floor period, and senators will have the opportunity to be responsive to their constituents and cast an up or down vote.”
Minority Democratic leaders accused Republicans of “waging war” on the state’s ethics and election watchdogs. “Republican politicians are taking a page out of President Trump’s playbook and trying to undermine ethical standards while rigging elections,” argued Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) in a statement. “This move will throw our elections into chaos at a time when we need to improve security, combat hacking threats and protect public access to the polls.”
Assembly Democratic Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) echoed those concerns, calling the move an attempt to undermine the upcoming midterm elections. “Republican leaders who continue to struggle with scandals and corruption allegations have a clear motive to disrupt election integrity, loosen ethics enforcement and rig the system in their favor.”