“Mess” would probably be too strong a word for several hundred dollars of campaign contributions, but taken in the greater context of the Democrats’ struggles with campaign finance promises, it was very important for Speaker Mike Sheridan to clear the air in these last two cases.
Several days ago I linked to an article published by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which alleged two Democratic representatives and two Republican representatives had violated the February ban on accepting contributions during the budget process.
Democrats Fred Clark of Baraboo and Ted Zigmunt of Francis Creek accepted $600 and $2,050 in contributions, respectively, on February 17. 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.
However, apparently they weren’t the only ones. Because today Sheridan sent letters to eight representatives, including the four mentioned above as well as Rep. Sandy Pasch (D-Whitefish Bay), Rep. Jerry Patrowski (R-Marathon), Rep. Louis Molepske (D-Stevens Point), and Rep. Phil Montgomery (R-Green Bay). The speaker essentially pardoned all of them. Some of them had accepted contributions the day before the budget was presented by the governor and had simply recorded the donation the next day. Sheridan blamed the other offenses on vaguer excuses, such as misunderstandings etc. He ended each letter by instructing each legislator to return the money and there would be no further action taken against them. Aw shucks.
OK, not visible ethics violations, but certainly incompetence. So convenient that there are exactly as many Republican offenders as Democratic ones. It meshes perfectly with the case I made in the last post on the matter – in politics your evil can only be defined in comparison to your opponent. This particularly issue is mainly relevant to Sheridan and the Democratic leadership – not the individual lawmakers involved. If the offenders had been all Democrats, the GOP leadership would have had a great talking point about the Democratic hypocrisy, as well as Sheridan’s inability to control his own ranks. After all, it was the Democrats who championed the fundraising ban – the ball was in their court.