Here’s a philosophical prompt for you, dear reader. What is the essence of politics? What is the most fundamental law that guides political behavior? Is it the instinct of the politician to abide by his campaign promises, in order to avoid alienating his base? Or is a good politician merely one who masters the art of breaking promises without voters noticing?
Obviously, it depends on the promise. If the promise has anything to do with campaign fundraising, it is virtually impossible that a politician’s actions will coincide with his moralistic grandstanding. It has been done a few times. Russ Feingold is about as close as you’re going to get.
So it was really no surprise when the Assembly Democrats reneged on their February pledge to not raise money while the budget was being written. They scheduled two fundraisers during the time, and only after intense media criticism did they cancel the second of the two. By the way, only because of unforgivable media incompetence did the first fundraiser go practically undetected. It simply goes to show that politicians will do anything if a lazy press allows them to.
Good news though. Re-discovering their commitment to ethics, the Assembly Democrats re-scheduled the “completely legitimate” fundraiser to after the budget had been voted on.
However, two of their members nevertheless broke the rules on their own.
Democrats Fred Clark of Baraboo and Ted Zigmunt of Francis Creek accepted $600 and $2,050 in contributions, respectively, on February 17.
Just to make clear: these guys broke the rules as clearly as possible. When the Assembly Dems tried to justify their fundraiser last month, they argued that the ban only involved individual candidates and their committees, and of course, has nothing to do with party committees. So now they have two bonified bad apples. Is Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan going to abide by his promise to not support candidates who violate the ban? Probably not, because it turns out the Republicans had troubles of their own with the ban:
Republican Rich Zipperer of Pewaukee accepted $450 in contributions February 17 and Republican Keith Ripp of Lodi accepted a $57.80 in-kind contribution June 25.
Hence, I will end the post on this prediction: In politics, corruption can only be measured in relation to the opposition. Hence, when both sides misbehave, nobody pays. Except for the constituents, who are asked yet again to believe in a “squeaky clean” Wisconsin.