MADISON, Wis. — The author of a sweetheart deal worth potentially millions of dollars for a politically-connected organization was offered a free, two-day Lake Michigan fishing excursion by the lobbyist and Executive Director for the group, according to a story in today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. One Wisconsin Now has filed a formal complaint with the state Government Accountability Board asking for an investigation of possible violations of state ethics laws based on the report, according Executive Director Scot Ross.
“Wisconsin’s state ethics laws are crystal clear, no one may offer, and no legislator may accept, anything of value to as an inducement or as a reward for their actions,” said Ross. “But throughout this whole sordid affair, Gov. Walker and the legislators behind this sleazy deal were willing to throw ethics overboard to help their cronies catch a multi-million dollar taxpayer funded grant.”
Wisconsin State Statute 19.45(3) states: “No person may offer or give to a state public official, directly or indirectly, and no state public official may solicit or accept from any person, directly or indirectly, anything of value if it could reasonably be expected to influence the state public official’s vote, official actions or judgment, or could reasonably be considered as a reward for any official action or inaction on the part of the state public official.”
In addition to uncovering the offer of a free two-day Lake Michigan fishing excursion for Suder from United Sportsmen’s lobbyist and Executive Direct Scott Meyer, it appears that by the time the trip occurred, the bid had been successfully rigged as United Sportsmen was the only group applying for the grant worth $500,000 in the 2013-15 biennium and $450,000 every two years thereafter.
Earlier in September Scott Suder left elected office for a job in the Walker administration at a salary of $94,000 a year, nearly double his salary as a state legislator.
The grant was intended to support hunting and fishing training, but United Sportsmen had almost no experience in such matter. Instead, the politically connected group endorsed Gov. Walker in his 2012 recall election, partnered with other organizations to promote GOP politicians at an event just prior to the November 2012 election and spent the bulk of its time lobbying in favor of state law changes to help an out-of-state mining company dig a four-mile wide pit mine in the Northwoods.
Ross concluded, “We can’t let our Wisconsin ethics laws be the ‘one that got away.’ Scott Suder, Gov. Walker and their co-conspirators in this sleazy deal need to be held accountable for any violations of state law in their attempt to rip off taxpayers to reward their cronies.”
A copy of the complaint, delivered to the Government Accountability Board this morning, is available at: http://www.onewisconsinnow.org/files/20130930095336.pdf.