MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The secretary of the Republican Party of Wisconsin is the first appointee to the new state ethics commission, state officials said Tuesday, a move a government watchdog group decried as “exactly what we feared.”
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has appointed Katie McCallum of Middleton, according to Reid Magney, spokesman for the soon-to-be-eliminated Government Accountability Board, which oversees state elections and ethics laws.
In addition to her current role as party secretary, McCallum is a former spokeswoman and fourth vice chair for the state Republican Party, the Wisconsin State Journal (https://bit.ly/1La52Vj ) reported.
Fitzgerald spokeswoman Myranda Tanck said McCallum was selected because of her “Wisconsin background and extensive experience.”
But Jay Heck, director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, said McCallum’s appointment is “exactly what we feared.” Common Cause and other groups opposed the new law, contending it would inject partisanship into oversight of state elections and ethics laws.
“People can expect the decisions this person renders will be first and foremost to please Scott Fitzgerald,” Heck said.
In December, Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill doing away with the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board on June 30. The board will be replaced with two commissions: one to oversee elections, the other ethics. Both commissions will be made up of partisan appointees, although the ethics panel will have two retired judges.
Supporters of the change said it was time to dismantle the board because it showed a partisan bias against Republicans - in part, through its role in the secret investigation of Walker’s 2012 recall campaign.
GAB Director Kevin Kennedy has defended the board, saying Republicans’ real goal is exerting political control over an independent government agency.
The new law allows Republican and Democratic leaders in the state Assembly and Senate to appoint one member each to the elections and ethics commissions. The governor has two appointees to both commissions. The governor nominates two former judges to the ethics commission and two former county or municipal clerks to the elections commission. All gubernatorial appointees must be confirmed by the state Senate.
McCallum and the other appointees to the new commissions may serve as non-voting members of the GAB until the new commissions take effect June 30, Magney said.
Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, https://www.madison.com/wsj
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