Scott Jensen Named First Influence Peddler of the Month

Posted: April 30, 2015
Updated: June 22, 2015

Madison – The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign is launching a new feature on its website, www.wisdc.org. It’s called Influence Peddler of the Month, and it aims to shine a light on the power brokers who work behind the scenes in the Capitol, throwing their weight around and adversely affecting the general public.

“Citizens of Wisconsin have a right to know who is pulling the levers of power in the State Legislature,” says Matt Rothschild, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a Madison nonprofit dedicated to clean government and transparency. “We’re going to start calling out the players.”

The first Influence Peddler of the Month award goes to Scott Jensen, the former Speaker of the Assembly, who was involved in the Caucus Scandal of 2001-2002. Originally convicted of three felonies and a misdemeanor for misconduct in public office, Jensen appealed the felonies and eventually reached a plea deal that dismissed the felonies in exchange for a plea of no contest to an ethics code violation, a $5,000 forfeiture, and reimbursement to the state for $67,000 in legal fees.

Many Wisconsin citizens may think this scandal ended Jensen’s career in the Capitol. But think again: Scott Jensen is still one of the most powerful forces under the Capitol dome. He is currently a lobbyist and senior adviser for the American Federation for Children, the school voucher group that has spent $5.4 million since the beginning of 2010 on outside electioneering activities in Wisconsin to support mostly Republican legislative candidates.

“This was an easy one,” Rothschild says. “It’s shocking to see the disgraced former leader of the Assembly still getting his way in the Capitol. But that’s what’s happening. He’s played a crucial role in the funneling of public dollars to private schools. And it’s a lot of dollars: $212 million this year.”

On June 1, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign will unveil the identity of the next Influence Peddler of the Month.

Correction: The original version of this posting said that Jensen “plea bargained to a misdemeanor and an ethics code violation.” A more accurate description is that Jensen reached an agreement with then District Attorney Brad Schimel to drop the felony charges in exchange for Jensen agreeing to reimburse the state for legal fees, to pay a $5,000 forfeiture, and to enter a “no contest” plea to an ethics code violation for violating standards of conduct for public officials. Jensen had previously chosen not to appeal his 2006 misdemeanor charge. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign regrets any misunderstanding that the original version may have caused.