Sneak Attack on Ethics Agency

In this update: 1. Action Alert: Tell your legislators to remove budget amendment hindering ethics investigations and weakening independent enforcement agency 2. Health care blog fuels discussion 3. Scott Jensen and justice denied Sneak Attack on Ethics Agency 

Email date: 6/19/09

In this update:
1. Action Alert: Tell your legislators to remove budget amendment hindering ethics investigations and weakening independent enforcement agency
2. Health care blog fuels discussion
3. Scott Jensen and justice denied

Buried deep within the Senate’s version of the state budget is an item cryptically labeled "conversion of investigations GPR sum sufficient appropriation." What the amendment does is seriously hamstring the new Government Accountability Board’s ability to independently investigate possible wrongdoing by state officials. And it is a step toward unraveling the landmark 2007 ethics reform law that the Democracy Campaign fought so hard for.

That law abolished two weak and discredited enforcement agencies and replaced them with a new politically independent office under the direction of a nonpartisan board of retired judges. One of the ways the law protects the independence of the agency is by giving it the ability to spend money on investigations without first having to get authorization from the Legislature. Before the 2007 law was enacted, ethics enforcement authorities had to go hat in hand to lawmakers - who in some cases were the same people these officials wanted to investigate - and get approval to spend the money. The Senate budget amendment would take Wisconsin back to those old days. In an editorial published this morning, the Wisconsin State Journal weighed in on the wisdom of such a journey back in time.

Please take a few minutes right now to tell your representative in the Assembly to oppose the Senate attempt to weaken the independence of the Government Accountability Board and unravel the 2007 ethics reform law. And tell your senator that it was a serious mistake to include this attack on independent ethics enforcement in the Senate’s version of the budget. For an e-mail directory for Assembly members, go here. For a list of e-mail addresses for members of the Senate, go here. If you aren’t sure who represents you in the Legislature, go here to find out.

Also contact Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan and Majority Leader Tom Nelson and urge them to fight to remove this item from the budget during upcoming negotiations with the Senate. And contact Senate Democratic leader Russ Decker to urge him to drop it from the Senate’s budget. Finally, contact Governor Jim Doyle to urge him to fight this amendment and veto it if it remains in the budget bill that is delivered to his desk.

______________________________________________________________

A Big Money Blog posted last Friday about the reasons why health care reform’s future is uncertain has been turned into a guest commentary in The Capital Times that also figures prominently in editor emeritus Dave Zweifel’s latest column.

______________________________________________________________

This week our blog is taking on the latest chapter in the War and Peace-sized saga of former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen’s legal maneuvering to beat corruption charges against him. We posted this on Wednesday and then this update yesterday. This neverending tale is the subject of columnist John Nichols’ latest column, too.