The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's Matt Rothschild hit the nail on the head with his commentary just before Christmas in which he called House Speaker Robin Vos and state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald schoolyard bullies.
That these so-called leaders are bullies is nothing new. The two Republicans — in cahoots with their slippery governor, Scott Walker, and the hyper-partisan attorney general, Brad Schimel — have spent the past several years shirking any personal responsibility for the corruption that surrounds them by unleashing smokescreens to hide their malfeasance.
"Razzle dazzle 'em and they'll never catch wise," was shyster lawyer Billy Flynn's advice to accused murderer Roxie Hart in the Broadway hit "Chicago," a scene that could have been written for the fair-haired cabal that runs Wisconsin government for the benefit of those who fork over the largest campaign donations.
What prompted Rothschild's commentary was Vos and Fitzgerald's power play to attempt to force two civil service members of the state's Elections and Ethics commissions to resign over their roles with the old Government Accountability Board in questioning campaign fundraising on the part of Walker that precipitated a John Doe investigation.
Vos and Fitzgerald, thanks to their control of state government and political soulmates on the state Supreme Court and in the attorney general's office, managed to cleverly muzzle the investigation. The only glitch for the cabal was that some John Doe documents found their way into the newspaper The Guardian. That prompted a fishing expedition by Schimel, who couldn't find the fish, but to save face issued a flawed report in December month to condemn a couple of career civil service workers for lax security of the documents.
Hence, the frustrated schoolyard bullies pounced, needing to exact a pound of flesh from anyone who disagrees with them. Then add state Sen. Leah Vukmir, whose legislative career has long involved doing the bidding of political high rollers, to the mix and you've got a smokescreen so thick that a first-rate sorcerer would be impressed. Vukmir's been so abused by the John Doe authorities who captured some of her personal emails when they went looking for campaign finance violations that someone needs to be sent to jail. Funny, we didn't hear much from the right-wing politico when Hillary Clinton's emails were snatched by the authorities, including ones in which she and daughter Chelsea discussed wedding plans.
Let's be honest here.
All this faux outrage on the part of Wisconsin GOP kingpins these past several years has been a clever way to mask the obvious: Their operatives, especially Scott Walker during the 2012 recall election, brazenly skirted the state's campaign finance laws and had the John Doe been allowed to dig deeper several may have wound up being indicted.
If Schimel were any kind of law enforcement officer and not a pawn in the pocket of his fellow Republicans, he would have launched his own investigation into what the John Doe records revealed. For starters, how a Texas lead-paint billionaire donated $750,000 to Walker et al. to get legislation passed shielding him from liability for causing brain damage among young kids.
Or the $1.2 million to the Republican governor from the mining giant Gogebic Taconite to get the state's mining rules rewritten. Or the plan to shake down right-wingers like the Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson to funnel millions more into campaign coffers that ultimately would help Walker's election campaign.
The John Doe documents printed in The Guardian were eye-openers into how low this administration will stoop to gain an unfair advantage, legalities be damned.
So it's no wonder Walker and his minions worked overtime to change the subject and now, on the cusp of an election year, they want to make villains of the very people who cared enough about Wisconsin's political integrity to ask some questions. Why, for instance, did Walker feel a need to raise nearly a half-million dollars to hire Chicago defense lawyers? Just in case?
The aim ought to be the restoration of fair and honest government in Wisconsin, starting with the funding of our political campaigns.
But that would be too much to ask of schoolyard bullies.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. email@example.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel
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