MADISON, Wis. — One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross said his organization has formally requested the Racine and Milwaukee County District Attorneys investigate Assembly Speaker Robin Vos for potential misconduct in office over what he termed a “blatant and outrageous fundraising shakedown” of the new owners of the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team.
“Boss Vos has personally delivered a blunt message to the new members of the Milwaukee business community – ‘pay up, or else.’ There’s no question Speaker Vos has crossed the line in showing bad manners with his blatant and outrageous shakedown,” said Ross. “The law is clear and we believe he has crossed a legal line with his statements, and we’re asking the authorities to investigate.”
In a weekend television appearance, on UpFront with Mike Gousha, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos stated that Bucks owner Marc Lasry meeting with the President of the United States when he visited Milwaukee was “probably not the wisest decision.” He went on to issue a not-so-thinly veiled threat — legislation to help build a new arena for the team is, “a hard sell” because of his past political donations to Democrats in other states and that the new owners need to be, “a lot smarter in their technique.”
Ross noted that as clear as Vos’ message was to the new owners of the Bucks regarding their political giving and affiliations Wisconsin statutes governing elected officials conduct in office are also clear — tying political campaign donations to action or inaction on legislative matters is illegal.
Wisconsin Statutes 19.45(13) reads:
No state public official or candidate for state public office may, directly or by means of an agent, give, or offer or promise to give, or withhold, or offer or promise to withhold, his or her vote or influence, or promise to take or refrain from taking official action with respect to any proposed or pending matter in consideration of, or upon condition that, any other person make or refrain from making a political contribution, or provide or refrain from providing any service or other thing of value, to or for the benefit of a candidate, a political party, any person who is subject to a registration requirement under s.11.05, or any person making a communication that contains a reference to a clearly identified state public official holding an elective office or to a candidate for state public office.
A violation of this section is a Class I felony.
Ross concluded, “If Speaker Vos was willing to make such blatant shakedown for campaign cash in public, on television, one shudders to think how often it’s happening and what he’s promising or threatening behind close doors. This is potentially much more than an appalling display of shoddy manners and ethics, it appears to be a violation of the law.”
A transcript of Vos’s comments on the Gousha program:
Vos: As I said this week, having one of the Bucks new owners go and greet Barack Obama on the tarmac in the middle of the Mary Burke campaign probably wasn’t the wisest decision.
Gousha: Why should that bother you? You know he’s a long time Democratic donor. Why does that bother you?
Vos: It sure bothers me because as you’re coming to us saying “we want to be an active participant in the community, picking a team, um, as something like me not picking the right team. Um, I don’t care what his political benefits are, but coming to us saying “We want to have hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies and not taking the wherewithal to say, “I’m not going to get involved in this political discussion in Wisconsin when I don’t have to,” sure would’ve been a better decision from my perspective.
Gousha: That bothers you.
Vos: It does! I think it makes it harder for me to sell to our caucus. Don’t forget, for people who live in most of the rest of Wisconsin, they look at Milwaukee as a place that already gets too much of our money. And now what you’re doing is making an even more difficult decision happen for a lot of folks around the state. So they’ve got to be a lot smarter with their technique. I mean, I want to bring those jobs and keep them in Wisconsin, but having us give hundreds of millions of dollars to big time donors who give to Democrats but also have billions of dollars of their own? That’s a hard sell. So I don’t think they need to do anything that makes my job more difficult.