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Don’t Allow the GAB to Become Partisan

Issue of the Week

Jul. 21, 2015
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Feeling flush with success after a favorable—but highly questionable—state Supreme Court ruling in the John Doe investigation, Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans have renewed their calls to dismantle the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board (GAB). This comes on the heels of their request to destroy the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau and change the John Doe investigation process so that prosecutors cannot use it to look at political crimes. They are quick to demand accountability when they are making their political speeches while at the same time trying to weaken or kill any institution designed to hold them accountable to the taxpayers. Their latest target is the rather well-functioning GAB.

The GAB, if you remember, was set up in the wake of the Capitol caucus scandal to ensure that oversight of state elections and campaigns were free of partisanship. It was passed unanimously by the state Legislature in 2007 and replaced the State Elections Board, which was a partisan body. Seen as a national model, the GAB is overseen by a panel of nonpartisan retired judges who are ultimately appointed by the governor and approved by the state Senate. Its director and general counsel, Kevin Kennedy, is one of the best experts on elections and election law in the state, yet he’s a constant lightning rod for Republicans who are upset that he and the judges on the board insist that the GAB remains nonpartisan and follows the law.

Republicans don’t have a specific plan on the table to replace the GAB, but it’s likely that they want to go back to the old partisan-staffed elections board. That would be a major step backward and it’s been blasted by everyone except the most partisan Republicans. With all of the undisclosed, dark money flowing into Wisconsin’s high-stakes elections and potentially corrupting them, we need an independent watchdog overseeing our elections, campaign contributions and lobbying. Once again, we have to ask Walker and his fellow Republicans, What are you trying to hide?

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