Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Walker’s Hands Dirty on Political Purge

Why didn't he oppose axing Elections, Ethics heads? Because he wanted revenge.

By - Jan 30th, 2018 12:39 pm
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the Republican National Convention in July. Walker supports ID laws to counter fraud even though voter fraud is rare in the state. Photo by Emily Mahoney of News21.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the Republican National Convention in July. Walker supports ID laws to counter fraud even though voter fraud is rare in the state. Photo by Emily Mahoney of News21.

So far state Sen. Scott Fitzgerald has been getting all the criticism for the Senate’s irresponsible vote to remove the administrators of the Wisconsin Ethics and Elections commissions. The Republican Majority Leader was unable to explain the “hatchet job” to his fellow members of the Senate, as Matt Rothschild reported, leaving only the conclusion that it was an “act of mindless vengeance,” as I’ve written.

But there is a back story here that is being overlooked: the key role of Gov. Scott Walker.

Walker repeatedly refused to offer an opinion on whether Elections Commission administrator Michael Haas and Ethics Commission administrator Brian Bell should be removed from their positions, as the Journal Sentinel’s Patrick Marley recently reported. “I’ll leave that up to them,” Walker said, referring to Fitzgerald and state senators.

You might think this is the governor deciding not to meddle in a legislative issue. Except that it is just as much the governor’s issue. It was Walker, after all, who, along with Republican legislative leaders, decided to overthrow the Government Accountability Board (GAB). Never mind that Republicans were part of a bipartisan legislative majority that created that entity, with the law getting overwhelming GOP support. Never mind that its board members were retired judges, more than half of whom had Republican backgrounds. Walker, Fitzgerald and other GOP politicians were convinced the GAB was somehow running an anti-Republican agency.

So the Republicans, with no support from Democrats, replaced the GAB with the Elections and Ethics Commissions, and Walker signed this measure into law. As governor, Walker also appoints two (of six) board members who serve on each commission. These were commissions the governor and legislature structured not to be answerable to legislators or any politicians, but to be independent agencies whose bipartisan boards set policy. Could anything be more important to the Wisconsin governor than the proper functioning of citizen boards entrusted with overseeing the state’s electoral system and enforcing ethical behavior by politicians?

So why then was Walker staying on the sidelines in this controversy? Recall that the reason for replacing the GAB was because it was assisting the John Doe probe of his campaign. In short, no one had more reason to be angry at the GAB than the governor and more reason to welcome the recent report attacking the Doe investigation by Attorney General Brad Schimel.

The report was supposed to discover and prosecute whoever leaked information from the probe to the media, but failed. Instead, this angry, error-filled document made all sorts of accusations against staff of the old Government Accountability Board, which both Haas and Bell worked for. In fact, neither were among the nine people Schimel recklessly (without specifying the evidence) suggested should be investigated for contempt of court. Yet Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said they had concerns that Haas and Bell might be “partisan” administrators and felt they should be removed from their current positions.

This was back in December, and Walker soon found a way to signal he favored the liquidation of Haas and Bell. As Wisconsin Radio Network reported back then, the governor repeatedly declined to say whether he agreed with calls for them to resign: “Walker said only that he was standing by the attorney general’s findings. ‘I think the Department of Justice’s report speaks for itself,’ Walker said multiple times when pressed to comment.”

In short, the report that Vos and Fitzgerald were using as a pretext to purge the two state officials was all good, as far as Walker was concerned, a clear signal he approved of their plan.

In response to Fitzgerald and Vos, both the Elections and Ethics commissions — all six members of each bipartisan board — voted unanimously to retain Haas and Bell. This included all four members appointed to the boards by Walker. Did the governor come to the aid of the citizens he appointed, and side with them against Fitzgerald’s decision to override two independent boards? Nope.

Later, the Elections Commission unanimously voted in favor of a resolution proposed by GOP appointee Dean Knudson asking Fitzgerald and the Senate to hold a public hearing on whether Haas should be fired. Did Walker support this call, and back up his commission appointees? Nope.

The Ethics Commission hired former federal prosecutor, Patrick Fiedler, and his law firm, Hurley, Burish and Stanton, to investigate Bell’s performance, at Bell’s request, at a cost to taxpayers of $25,000. The report’s conclusion: “There is not a scintilla of evidence that Brian Bell has ever performed any of his governmental duties in a partisan manner.” Did Walker back up the findings of the commission he helped create? Nope.

And after Fitzgerald and his gang of Republican hangmen and women voted to remove the two men — without any public hearing, and without providing any evidence that Haas or Bell were “partisan” or had done their jobs in anything but an exemplary fashion — Walker had yet another chance to step in. A majority of the Elections Commission — including a Republican appointee of Walker’s — voted 4-2 to keep Haas on as administrator until the April election. The action will prevent potential disruption of the February and April statewide elections, and give the already short-staffed commission time to find a new administrator.

Did Walker support this idea? On the contrary. A spokesman for Walker’s administration “said it viewed the effort to keep Haas in the job as invalid and would not give him his full pay,” Marley reported. Walker’s Department of Administration immediately moved to stop paying Haas and Bell their salaries as administrators, as Wisconsin Public Radio reported. Walker, in short, was doing everything he could to enforce the Senate’s overthrow of the two citizen boards.

It’s not hard to figure out who most wanted Haas and Bell to be punished. Besides Walker, the Doe Probe had targeted the Wisconsin Club for Growth and the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce for allegedly illegal coordination of their campaigns. The WMC, in particular, is a fat cat donor whose support is critical to Fitzgerald and all the Republican senators. The message being sent by Fitzgerald, and strategically supported by Walker, was one of sheer fear: don’t you dare investigate, or even come near anyone investigating the state’s top Republicans or its fat cat donors, or your careers will be ruined.

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Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

53 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Walker’s Hands Dirty on Political Purge”

  1. Rich says:

    How much does UM need to get this story read verbatim on prime-time Fox across the state? Those who read this site regularly don’t need convincing, its those who get all their news from Fox that need exposure to this viewpoint…Maybe they won’t agree, but they should hear it. Yes, I’ve heard their side and the dribble about the pre-dawn raids and the whatever and the evidence doesn’t back it up, so now the opinion and perception should come around to match.

    But hey, I got $100* off on my property taxes, so, Go Walker 2018!

    * That’s $0.27 per day people, did you even notice?

  2. Important piece from Bruce that will, alas, never make FOX and is kind of preaching to the choir. HE understandably didn’t go into the Elections Commission voting to keep it administrator, requiring a GOP member to cross over. And the commission may have stronger constitutional reasons on its side than the Senate:

  3. Terry says:

    Career Politician Scott Walker is as greasy as they come folks. He, Fitzgerald, Vos and all the other republican schemers, scammers, liars and goons should resign immediately. At least then they could save face before We the People dump them all like a bad habit in November 2018.
    We’re gonna need a whole fleet of big ol’ dump trucks to dump all these greasy republicans in Walker’s Wississippi, but we’ll get ‘er done. Time to clean house and take our state back from these corrupt, crypto-fascist enabling republicans!
    “Beep, beep, beep…back it up son.”

  4. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Cause of Scott our property taxes are 25% lower than they would have been under Doyle. plus sales taxes would have been 7% or so, the way the left and Milwaukee are going. Kids dying from lead poisoning while the billionaires Bucks and the downtown people get Arenas and trolleys.
    Parking in the parks fees, wheel taxes. Left is nuts and where does the money go? Into the pockets of the public over paid, underworked, employees..

  5. blurondo says:

    As has been demonstrated on many previous occasions, Rule #1 of the Tea Party is revenge.

  6. Terry says:

    @WCD, as usual nothing you are blathering about is actually true nor does it change the fact that Wisconsin republicans and Career Politician Scott Walker are as corrupt and greasy as the come.
    You can’t blame Doyle, Obama and the poor forever republicans.
    Dump Walker 2018!
    Dump all republicans 2018!

  7. Bruce Thompson says:

    Do you have a link to the Wisconsin Legislative Council Memo of 1/18/18 that Ann Jacobs responds to?
    I think she makes a convincing case of how the law would work, that only the commission can remove the executive director, but it would be interesting to see what the supposedly non-partisan WLC said.

  8. ERIC J. says:

    WCD :
    “Cause of Scott our property taxes are 25% lower than they would have been under Doyle. plus sales taxes would have been 7% or so, ” OBVIOUSLY NO FACTS TO SUPPORT YOUR ALLEGATION .
    -” Into the pockets of the public over paid, underworked, employees..” POLICE AND FIRE ARE PUBLIC EMPLOYEES .-Maybe they should also now be under ACT 10.

  9. Terry says:

    @ERIC J, exactly! No facts from republicans, just lies. I’ve always wondered why police and firefighter’s unions get a pass from Walker but teachers and others don’t? I thought unions were bad Walker? Career politician Walker says it’s because of safety. What a charlatan! It’s obvious Walker is simply currying favor from the powerful Law Enforcement union and throwing in the firefighters for good measure and cover for his “safety” claim. Pshaw! Are you safe in society with uneducated people. Obviously not! Republicans more than prove that!

  10. mkwagner says:

    Let’s be honest WCD. Because of Scott Walker our health insurance rates are 30% higher than neighboring states. Medicaid costs have gone up 81% those costs could have been covered with federal dollars except Walker turned them down. In 2018, 10 years after the beginning of the Great Recession, Wisconsin is finally beginning to recover. That’s almost 8 years after our neighbor to the west. Our public universities have been decimated and the state is experiencing a teacher shortage. Education has taken a huge hit under Walker. The result is that other states are picking our pockets when it comes to research based start up ventures, a basic fuel for economic development. Of course, there is the $3 billion give away to Foxcon. Except that figure has ballooned to $4.5 billion. Foxcon has already missed one deadline and the ink is barely dry. There is really only one conclusion: Scott Walker has not been good for Wisconsinites.

  11. Timothy J Haering says:

    The entire GOP wanted revenge. Walker, like NIxon, has plausible deniability. Besides, only soldiers take jobs like Haas and Bell, or Kennedy, had. The chance of dying in battle is a mundane reality. You advance your cover without notice and you can get it from in front or behind. Argentina will not cry for them. They will land well softer than you, Bruce. I found that just surviving is a noble fight. I once believed in causes too, had my pointless point of view, and life went on no matter who was wrong or right.

  12. Dennis says:

    absolute power corrupts. When either the republicans or democrats have complete control, these are the type of things that happen

  13. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    GAB flounted the law along with Chisholm and the others. They should be impeached, tried, jailed, lose their licenses, removed from office, anyone involved that did not tell the law the truth.

  14. Jeff Weiner says:

    WCD do you actually believe the bull shit that you write. Always a joke.

  15. old baldy says:


    “flounted” ??

  16. Dan Wilson says:

    All of this bears an eerie resemblance to what is going on in D.C. with Republican attacks on the FBI and Justice Departments. Maybe there should be a law that only wrongdoing by Democrats should be investigated.

  17. Old Man Yells at Cloud says:

    Comments from Walker/Trump supporters like WCD’s prove that the only thing they care about is another nickel in their pocket. [However, that ‘extra’ nickel isn’t extra at all. We all would have more nickels if Walker could actually lead WI forward] They should be the first to hold their politicians accountable if they are truly patriots. Instead, they point a finger at something totally unrelated, raise their nose, and claim to be superior.

  18. Terry says:

    @Old Man Yells, yes correct except that the nickel they “saved” is going right back out of their pockets thanks to Career Politician Walker’s Foxcon fiasco! Wisconsin taxpayers are on the hook for decades for corporate welfare payments to a foreign company yet all we hear from republicans about that is…nothing. Hypocrites in broad daylight!
    Dump Walker 2018!
    Dump all republicans 2018!

  19. Kathy D. says:

    This is shocking stuff. Why are we not reading more stories about this corruption in the MSM? Keep up the good work, Bruce. We need you!

  20. Thomas says:

    The GAB did what it was supposed to do. The nastiness of the vengeance vs. some who served that body well reflects ill on some of those who played fast and loose with election laws and political contribution laws in the interest of the rise and maintenance of the apparently everlasting Walker campaign.

  21. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Kathyy I would agree with you except Bruce never points out the lies, corruption in Milwaukee that brought about this John doe, purely partisan that was rejected by 7 judges. some people are in big trouble as the sides keep closing in.

  22. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Kathy I would agree with you except Bruce never points out the lies, corruption in Milwaukee that brought about this John doe, purely partisan that was rejected by 7 judges. some people are in big trouble as the sides keep closing in.

  23. Terry says:

    @WCD, How many of these judges had campaigns financed by, or ties to, the same big out of state mega-rich donors that fund and prop up Career Politician and other Wisconsin republican’s campaigns? Educate yourself! They don’t call it Walker’s Wississippi for nothing!

  24. Terry says:

    @WCD, the only people in “big trouble” are Career Politician Scott Walker and republicans as their lies, scheming and crookedness are EXPOSED. Now they are running scared and Walker canceled any further special elections because they just got hammered by democrats in District 10. Gerrymandering won’t save them this time. Their big out of state mega-rich donors won’t save them this time. Their lies and corruption can’t be hidden forever.

    A big blue wave is forming and Career Politician Scott Walker and all Wisconsin republicans should resign immediately, before they are unceremoniously dumped by voters in November 2018!

  25. Bruce Murphy says:

    WCD, actually I did write about what judges thought about the John Doe probe, there were quite a number of Republican DAS and GOP appointed judges who supported it:

  26. Terry says:

    Just released! Career Politician Scott Walker’s poll numbers PLUNGING!!

  27. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    All the big money, banks, insurance etc are all dems look at Tammy Baldwins money, Obama, Hillary. Big money is all Dems.
    Hillary spent 2.5 billion to Trumps 600 million, mostly small donors. GOP is way ahead of the Dems in fundraising this year but all small donations cause they love Trump, hate Clintons, Sanders, Schumers and the other rot.

  28. Terry says:

    @WCD, yeah “small donations” like the Koch Brothers spending 400 million annually…

    Or the Bradley Foundation, donating hundreds of millions…

    Or small time pikers like Billionaire Sheldon Adelson…

    Or any of these other Billionaires propping up republican shills like Career Politician Scott Walker…

    Name calling and lying does not change reality.

    Dump Walker 2018!

  29. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    For you dopey people that believe that crap, look at the donors and koch is way down the lsit. Bradley does not give to camapigns.

  30. Bruce Thompson says:

    Fitzgerald, Vos, and Walker seem to be doing their damnedest to make sure they control the election and ethics commission. Seems really dumb to me.

  31. Terry says:

    @WCD, What’s a “camapign?”
    Donors can give in all sorts of ways!

    Calling people “dopey” while misspelling does not help your sad and very lost cause!

  32. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Atfer teh gratest STOU in Hitsory tow dyas ago the GPO will sweep teh elctoins.

  33. Terry says:

    Bah Trump’s apprvol raiting iz lowa dan any pwesiden eva afta one yeer!

  34. We have descended into Jabberwocky

  35. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    It is spelled Jabbwerwocky

  36. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    trump up 10 since SOTU and the congress is up 2 for the Dems Trump will sweep teh dopey Dems who have nutting except ahte.

  37. Tim says:

    It’s past 6:30 Dominique, WCD has already descended into a cheap vodka stupor. Although half past noon ain’t much better… I appreciate your attempts to enlighten him.

  38. Steven Hodges says:

    wisconsin conservative digest spook is lost in translation

  39. Troll says:

    The magic 8 ball shows the Dems picking Kathleen Vinehout as their nominee even though Malin Mitchell runs a better sound bite campaigns. Vinehout runs on walker being to much of a Milwaukee politician (freeway money, buck’s arena, trolley and Foxconn) Vinehout rips Milwaukee at every possible event in northern Wisconsin. Milwaukee Dems dane in the bike lanes. Walker is out.

  40. Troll says:

    Dance in the bike lanes

  41. Thomas says:

    Thanks, Mr. Noth, for alerting us in post # 35 that we had “descended into Jabberwocky.” I think that analysis was accurate. Post # 36 by WCD reinforced my affirmation of your analysis. WCD mistakenly called you out on the spelling of the Lewis Carol poem; then he flagrantly miss-spelled it himself. Such nonsense as WCD’s alleged umbrage at someone else’s spelling of something he knows nothing about would be fertile ground for the author of ALICE IN WONDERLAND. As amusing as these distractions sometimes are, it troubles me that they take us so easily so far afield from serious subjects, such as growing corruption in our state government.

  42. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Jabbwerwocky is only thing the Lefties understand. Fact is that the whole John Doe was giant political witch hunt over something that courts had said is legal; which is discussion between candidates and other groups in campaigns.
    This is known as freedom of speech. The people need to be cleaned out that were part of that conspiracy initiated by those that just hates Scott Walker who has saved our state.

  43. Jeff Weiner says:

    WCD you need to be saved from the state of foolishness. Every post of yours just embarrass you more.

  44. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Save me send money?

  45. Thomas says:

    I suspect that those on this site who say that WCD’s posts are booze driven could be accurate. Trump’s state of the union speech was meagre. It could have been presented in half an hour had he not spoken so slow, clapped so much for himself …
    Anyone inspired by that 90+ minutes of humor free nonsense (a string of meaningless words not worthy of comparison to Jabberwocky) must have been deep into a second pint of some kind of distilled spirits. .

  46. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Thanks. Every morning I wake up, look at my autographed pictures of Reagan,Trump, Ford, Nixon and go to work fighting to keep this country from the failed mess of Doyle, Obama, the disaster of Barrett/Flynn. Love to listen to the whiners here.

    Jeff, you have not saved me with a check as you promised.

  47. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    The Walker/Foxconn deal that will produce 50,000 jobs with the multipliers, get many single mothers off of welfare, give jobs to Inner city kids, add billions in tax revenue is the greatest business deal in the history of Wisconsin. And the left whines about it.

  48. Terry says:

    Walker FoxCONNED Wisconsin. 4.5 BILLION of our tax dollars squandered on corporate welfare for Taiwainese company. Each “job” (if there are any) will cost taxpayer’s $200,000 EACH! What a boondoggle! And now, Trump and republicans are imploding the econony, yet again…Democrats will have to come in, save the economy again, and then be blamed by republicans. Rinse, repeat.


  49. Thomas says:

    An English poet a little older than the author of JABBERWOCKY wrote the following:

    “Malt does more than Milton can/ To justify God’s ways to man.”

    Here is a 2 question quiz: (1) Who wrote the above lines? (2) Is there truth in the assertion in those lines?

    Answers could be revealing.

  50. A.E. Housman, and certainly true for drinkers

  51. Thomas says:

    Thank you, Dominique, for your accurate responses to my 2 question quiz.

    I was hoping that WCD would bite on that quiz and tell us all to “Look into the pewter pot/And see the world as it is not.”

    Thanks again for identifying the drift to a form of “Jabberwocky” from a discussion on corruption in state government. If our dialogue could encourage the likes of WCD to read some Carroll or some Housman, perhaps they could see some light and shade; thereby diminishing their penchants for writing about the world in black and white terms – chiefly in deep, dark, apocalyptical reactionary rants.

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