Final Members Picked to New Partisan Ethics Commission

June 21, 2016

Democratic Donkey and Republican Elephant

The partisan Wisconsin Ethics Commission is now set to replace the state’s Government Accountability Board (GAB) next week after Republican Gov. Scott Walker picked two retired judges to complete its six-member roster.

Walker appointed former Oneida County Circuit Judge Robert Kinney and former Waukesha County Circuit Judge and GOP legislator Mac Davis to the ethics commission earlier this month. The pair were among of pool of six retired judges whose names were submitted to Walker by Democratic and Republican legislative leaders. Walker was required to pick a Democratic and a Republican nominee to the commission. Senate and Assembly Democratic and Republican legislative leaders appointed the four other ethics commission members earlier this year.

The GOP-controlled legislature and Walker created the ethics commission and the partisan Wisconsin Elections Commission late last year after they criticized the GAB for its role in the John Doe II probe, which investigated coordination between outside electioneering by special interest groups and Walker’s campaign in 2011 and 2012.

The members of both commissions are made up of three Republicans and three Democrats.

Here’s some background on the Ethics Commission members, and the campaign contributions they made to legislative and statewide candidates between January 2005 and December 2015:

Robert Kinney, of Rhinelander, was an Oneida County circuit judge who retired in 2007 after 31 years on the bench. He has served as a reserve judge for the state and a referee in disciplinary cases for the state Office of Lawyer Regulation. Kinney contributed a total of $600 to nonpartisan Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Shirley Abrahamson, but made no contributions to partisan statewide or legislative candidates.

Mac Davis, of Waukesha, was a Waukesha County circuit judge who retired in 2015 after 25 years on the bench. Before getting elected circuit judge, Davis was a GOP state senator from 1983 to 1990. Davis contributed $100 to nonpartisan Wisconsin Supreme Court justice Annette Ziegler, but made no contributions to partisan statewide or legislative candidates.

Peg Lautenschlager, of Fond du Lac, a former Democratic attorney general from 2002 to 2006, U.S. Attorney, and Assembly representative. Lautenschlager was appointed by Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling and contributed about $3,600 mostly to Democratic legislative and statewide candidates.

Katie McCallum, of Middleton, a former spokeswoman for the state Republican Party. McCallum was appointed by GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and did not contribute to legislative or statewide candidates.

David Halbrooks, of Milwaukee, a former municipal attorney, municipal judge and member of the old partisan state Elections Board, which was replaced by the GAB in 2008. Halbrooks was appointed by Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca and contributed $6,550 to Democratic legislative and statewide candidates.

Pat Strachota, of West Bend, a former longtime GOP Assembly representative. She was appointed by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Strachota and her husband, Tom, contributed about $18,700 mostly to Republican legislative and statewide candidates.