In 2008, in the wake of a legislative caucus scandal and partisan rulings by the state’s Elections Board, Wisconsin announced the formation of a new non-partisan ethics and elections agency. The Government Accountability Board (GAB), formed from the merger of the Elections Board and Wisconsin’s Ethics Board, was intended to provide an independent body capable of investigating criminal and civil violations of the state’s ethics and election laws free from the partisan and financial pitfalls that wracked its predecessors. On Tuesday, Republican lawmakers held a hearing on a bill to scrap the GAB and replace it with a system similar to the one it replaced. Board members of the resulting Ethics and Elections Commissions would be appointed by state legislative leaders from both parties and the governor. The gubernatorial appointees to the Elections board would be former local election clerks. The proposed bill would also reverse the changes to the funding rules that were considered key to the GAB when it was formed.
The bill, authored by Representative Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, comes on the heels of a series of controversies embroiling the GAB. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, speaking to Mike Gousha of WISN-12 Milwaukee, called the Board a “failed experiment” and attributed its failings to an overly-broad mandate:
We empowered the G.A.B. to be the judicial branch, where they have the ability to be judge and jury. The executive branch, where they have the ability to really do the investigations. And the legislative branch where they get the opportunity to make policy. That’s too much authority in one entity.
The goal of the Government Accountability Board–to “take politics and partisanship out of the process” as Vos puts it–is now seen by many as unattainable. The “John Doe” investigation into alleged improper coordination between conservative groups and Governor Scott Walker’s recall election campaigns faced substantial criticism for partisan leanings, criticism that Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty president Rick Esenberg says undermines the Board’s premise.
Full Article: Wisconsin Government Accountability Board |.