Ethics Board Pick Reveals Partisanship and Patronage

February 24, 2016

The first appointee to Wisconsin’s new Ethics Commission suggests that patronage and partisanship will be the order of the day. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald appointed Katie McCallum to the Ethics Commission. She is a former communications director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin and, according to her LinkedIn page, she is currently fourth vice chair of the Republican Party of Wisconsin. Previously she worked as a legislative aide to Republican State Senator Sheila Harsdorf.

“What makes her qualified to serve on the Ethics Commission? She’s a Republican loyalist, pure and simple,” says Matt Rothschild, the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. “And that’s not the type of person who should be on the state’s Ethics Commission. This is exactly what we feared when the Republicans in the legislature destroyed the Government Accountability Board last year: that they would stack the new Ethics Commission with cronies.”

The Government Accountability Board was overseen by retired judges, who had many years of practice being impartial and unbiased on the bench. But Republicans charged, without evidence, that the judges were acting in a biased manner. Further, the Republican leaders argued that everyone is biased, so you might as well put partisans on the board, which they are now doing. And Democratic leaders, who also will get to appoint members to the Board, can be expected to follow suit and put in their own loyalists.

“Partisan advantage—and not ethical considerations—should not get top billing on Wisconsin’s Ethics Commission,” Rothschild said.

The results may be grave, he said.

“Inaction will be the order of the day, as each side will try to block the other from investigating ethics violations against its own members,” says Rothschild. “This is a recipe for more corruption and criminality.”