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Who Bought Héctor Colón?

Issue of the Week

Sep. 27, 2016
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Ironically, as reporters and good government groups pored over the leaked John Doe documents and denounced the influence of dark money on Gov. Scott Walker’s political career and pay-to-play politics, a new dark money group won a victory last Thursday when the Milwaukee County Board voted to give Health and Human Services Director Héctor Colón a two-year appointment. 

The vote was seen as a compromise between Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele’s request for a four-year term for Colón, and the county’s Health and Human Needs Committee’s 3-2 vote to fire Colón.

Supervisors were reacting not only to Colón’s record in office, his lack of transparency and candor and his total disdain for public input, but also the dark money-funded campaign on behalf of Colón. Now, we know that there are many decent, thoughtful people who support Colón and they went public with their support. But there was also a campaign funded by anonymous donors—or one single donor—that took their support for Colón to a new and troubling level. Milwaukee Works Inc., apparently run by Abele protégé Dan Adams,  sent mailers to constituents of targeted supervisors and ran an ad in the Journal Sentinel to urge supervisors to confirm Colón.

Of course, Milwaukee Works is free to weigh in on county issues, just as the Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG) did during Scott Walker’s time as county executive. But it’s especially troubling when an anonymous donor or donors is trying to purchase the appointment of a government official, whether Colón asked for that support or not.

We are left to ask, who is behind the campaign to save Colón and what do they want? Could it be an individual or corporation doing business with the county who wants to get on the good side of Colón as he continues to privatize the Behavioral Health Division? Is it a politician who wants to intimidate or control county supervisors? Or is it another individual, group or corporation that simply seeks to destroy local democratic institutions and the vital checks and balances within local government?

Whoever or whatever is funding this campaign, Milwaukee Works, like the CRG, set out to bully supervisors and prop up their guy. It’s just one more example of the Chris Abele era in Milwaukee County resembling Scott Walker’s time in office. It’s almost as if the same playbook is being read and repeated. And all Milwaukeeans should be very, very concerned about allowing anonymous donors to hold so much sway over local officials. For the good of Milwaukee County, we hope that someday we won’t learn in some future investigation that Abele’s administration was as corrupt as Walker’s.

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