Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wait, should Scott Walker resign? Past comments are reminiscent of the Mike Ellis scandal

Mike Ellis quits the legislature over comments that suggested he’d partake in illegal campaign activities. In 2011, Scott Walker did something similar.

With recent undercover video showing Sen. President Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) making comments suggesting he would conduct illegal campaigning activity in the upcoming elections, many have welcomed his resignation as the right move to make.

Even some conservatives, who have said that Ellis’s behavior is a hypocritical example of lawmaking in state government, are celebrating the decision, although many are happy because of Ellis’s previous skepticism on expanding school vouchers.

Nevertheless, it’s interesting to ask: would the state’s conservative base request a different high-ranking official to resign if he/she had similarly expressed an interest in violating other campaign laws? We don’t have to look far for an answer.

In 2011, when the Wisconsin protests were in full force, Gov. Scott Walker was the recipient of a prank phone call. Believing the caller to be billionaire (and campaign donor) David Koch, Walker made many *interesting* comments, including this one:
Fake Koch: We’ll back you any way we can. But what we were thinking about the crowd was, uh, was planting some troublemakers.

Walker: You know, well, the only problem with that -- because we thought about that ... My only fear would be if there’s a ruckus caused is that would scare the public into thinking maybe the governor has to settle to avoid all these problems.
Walker had “only” one fear about placing instigators into the crowds, and that was the political backlash it could cause, not the safety or well-being of protesters.

There was another comment that Walker made that is just as interesting, especially in light of the recent Ellis situation. Walker implies that he’d accept a flight out to California from the fake David Koch, a move that would be illegal under state law.
Fake Koch: Well, I tell you what, Scott: Once you crush these bastards I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.

Walker: All right, that would be outstanding. Thanks for all the support in helping us move the cause forward, and we appreciate it, and we’re doing it the just and right thing for the right reasons and it’s all about getting our freedoms back.
Walker also made suggestions that “David Koch” should consider backing several lawmakers in the state of Wisconsin as they, too, would need help to stand their ground.
Walker: After this in some of the coming days and weeks ahead, particularly in some of these more swing areas, a lot of these guys are going to need, they don’t need initially ads for them, but they’re going to need a message out. Reinforcing why this was a good thing to do for the economy, a good thing to do for the state. So to the extent that message is out over and over again is certainly a good thing.
Coordinating with political donors is a big no-no in the world of campaign finance rules.

Now, with both statements Walker could conceivably come up with a strong defense for himself. He didn’t convincingly say he was going to take a flight to California, and he didn’t technically tell the man he thought was David Koch in any direct way to financially back his allies. But when the fake Koch said “We’ll back you any way we can” following Walker’s “not-a-suggestion” suggestion, Walker didn’t say anything to the contrary, either.

Let’s get back to today: Mike Ellis decided not to run for another term in office because of comments that suggested he’d violate campaign finance rules. That move was celebrated, in some manner, by both right and left in the state. When we saw Walker making similar comments in the past, the right lambasted the prank call, said we couldn’t take Walker’s comments seriously, and suggested that his words were not illegal actions.

There’s a bit of hypocrisy here. Yes, Mike Ellis’s comments were more specific, and more damaging to the career politician. But Scott Walker’s comments were suggestive of an illegal action, too. Neither Republican actually engaged in an illegal action, but Ellis was expected to resign from office; Walker was not.

Doesn’t Walker deserve some scrutiny, not just from the left, but from the right as well, the same way Mike Ellis’s comments were scrutinized?

1 comment:

  1. "Our rules don't apply to us." 21st Century GOP motto.

    I never have understood how Walker wasn't charged for clearly asking "David Koch" to coordinate ads for certain GOP Senators. Also remember Reince Priebus discussing the "total unity" that WisGOP had with. "Independent" tea party groups. How is this different than what Ellis was talking about?