MADISON, Wis. — As part of a comprehensive agenda to open Wisconsin for corruption, Assembly Republicans are scheduled to vote to gut state laws that protect state employees from improper political pressure on the job and help prevent cronyism in state hiring. The Assembly action comes after Republicans last week voted for giving themselves special privileges making it harder to investigate political corruption and control of the purse strings for funding investigations of allegations of their ethics and election law violations and to undo Wisconsin’s over century old ban on direct corporate contributions in elections.
One Wisconsin Now Deputy Director Mike Browne commented, “On the heels of voting to hide their corruption from the public and make it harder to investigate it and prosecute it, Assembly Republicans are set to tear down the last vestiges of the law preventing their cronyism, corruption and incompetence from infecting every corner of state government.”
The bill up for debate and a vote today, Assembly Bill 373, would allow Republicans to pack state government with political cronies by replacing objective measures for qualifying for appointments with resumes and centralize hiring in the state Department of Administration, headed by a political appointee. In addition, political appointees in agencies would be able to lay off employees without regard to seniority and dole out bonuses at their discretion, promoting favoritism for cronies.
Browne noted that the scandal plagued Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) provides a dismal portrait of what can happen when the anti-corruption protections of the civil service law are stripped from state employees. Research by One Wisconsin Institute found businesses whose owners, directors or employees contributed to the campaign of Scott Walker received over sixty percent of dollars awarded by the jobs agency.
Meanwhile media reports uncovered how a risky $500,000 loan that never should have been given found it’s way to a $10,000 contributor to Gov. Walker’s 2010 campaign under direct pressure from his Secretary of the Department of Administration and his then chief of staff. The business has gone under, the loan was never repaid and subsequent investigations have shown basic safeguards for issuing loans were ignored and supporting documents were riddled with false or incomplete information.
Last week both the Senate and Assembly Republicans voted for and Gov. Walker signed in to law a measure giving themselves special privileges by exempting political corruption from the list of crimes that can be investigated as part of a “John Doe” proceeding. An earlier John Doe investigation netted convictions of six close aides and associates of Gov. Walker on crimes ranging from embezzling funds intended for the widows and children of armed service members killed in the line of duty, laundering political campaign contributions and illegal campaigning on public time.
The Assembly GOP also approved measures to repeal the over century old ban on direct corporate contributions in elections, eliminated the requirement that large campaign donors disclose information about their employer, dismantle the nonpartisan ethics and election law enforcement agency and give themselves control of the purse strings for funding future investigations into allegations of what ethics and elections laws remain.
Browne concluded, “Gov. Walker and legislative Republican’s assault on our state’s anti-corruption laws has been meticulous and comprehensive. If only they showed the same dedication to helping the people they were elected to serve as they’ve shown to help themselves rig the system to maintain power and open Wisconsin for corruption to benefit the special interests underwriting their campaigns.”