The head of the Wisconsin Elections Commission says the agency’s administrator is being “railroaded” due to partisan politics.
Senate Republicans plan to hold votes on whether to confirm Administrator Mike Haas and Ethics Commission Administrator Brian Bell when the chamber meets on January 23rd. While the boards overseeing both agencies have now asked for public hearings on their appointments to be held, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) has so far indicated that will not be happening.
Wisconsin Elections Commission Chair Mark Thomsen says it’s a “travesty of justice” that Haas could be rejected without having a chance to make his case to lawmakers. “For an unknown partisan reason, they want Mr. Haas’ head,” Thomsen says. “That should not take place. This is not Democracy in action.”
Republicans have been calling for Haas and Bell to resign following the release of a Department of Justice report last month that was critical of operations in their agencies. The report was the result of an investigation into a leak of information from a secret investigation into Governor Scott Walker’s campaign, which took place under the former Government Accountability Board. The Ethics and Elections Commissions replaced the GAB after it was dissolved by Republicans. Haas and Bell were not among the names the attorney general suggested should face action based on his findings, which were unable to determine the source of the leak.
Thomsen says Haas has the full support of commission members and has been recognized nationally for his work with the agency. “There hasn’t been an iota of any evidence or facts that would indicate Mike Haas isn’t the most qualified, competent person to run our agency,” he argues.
Even if the Senate rejects their confirmations, Thomsen believes Haas will be able to remain in his job unless members of the commission actually vote to fire him. Firing him would require a majority vote from the panel that’s even split between Republican and Democratic appointees. So far, the six members have been unanimous in their support of him staying.
Fitzgerald has not commented on his decision not to hold hearings on Haas and Bell’s confirmations.