Saturday, October 17, 2015

Republicans plan to dismantle GAB -- because it worked

Exposure of blemishes is why Republicans plan to do away with nonpartisan elections agency

This next week the Republican-held state legislature is set to dismantle the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board in favor of a more politically-charged model.

The board would be replaced by two separate entities, a commission on campaign ethics and a commission on elections. It would be comprised mostly of political appointments, members of political parties who undoubtedly will make judgments based on their partisan nature.

Currently, members of the GAB cannot be part of the organization if they are currently part of a political party, or have recently donated to a political cause or candidate.

Why are Republicans recommending these changes? Because they believe that the GAB has been an utter failure.

They are completely wrong.

“It's time to reform the Government Accountability Board,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos wrote on his website recently. “It became even more evident that there is a need to overhaul the GAB following an audit by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau.”

But the audit to which Vos refers to didn’t make any recommendations that suggested such bold changes. It simply stated that the GAB had to respond to inquiries at a faster pace, and that the body had to “consistently [provide] names of three qualified individuals who may be retained as a special investigator.”

Put another way, the audit (PDF) made suggestions that would have strengthened, not weakened or dismantled, the GAB’s efforts.

The real reason that Republicans are so adamant in their destroying the GAB is the fact that it worked so well. In initiating nonpartisan John Doe investigations, the GAB helped find and prosecute six staffers of Gov. Walker who had committed crimes while he was Milwaukee County Supervisor.

The second John Doe investigation, the details of which have since been made public, helped shed light on the dirty money that had been funneled during the Walker recall campaign, from Walker himself to conservative organizations.
Gov. Scott Walker prodded outside groups and individuals to funnel millions of dollars into Wisconsin Club for Growth — a pro-Walker group directed by his campaign adviser — during the recall elections in 2011 and 2012, according to court documents unsealed for a short time Friday afternoon.
That coordination included a $700,000 donation from a mining company, which was followed up with Walker signing a bill into law that was favorably to them. To any rational mind, that action stirs up suspicion; to Republicans, the GAB suggestion that it needs to be looked at is suspicious.

Why? Channel 3’s Neil Heinen explains it perfectly:
“Lawmakers don’t like enforcement of elections laws if it makes it harder to get elected, like they don’t like open records and meetings laws,” he said.

The move to do away with the Government Accountability Board is a deliberate one, intended to get rid of a functioning model that has exposed blemishes on the Republican Party’s record in the state as a corrupt purveyor of dirty campaign violations. Get rid of that board in favor of a partisan body, and it will become all the more difficult to expose those violations to the public eye for scrutiny.

And that’s precisely what Republicans are hoping to accomplish: less scrutiny, less accountability, and more corruption in our state so that they can win office.

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