Imagine if a career criminal was allowed to change laws that keep getting him in trouble. Imagine a corrupt career politician who has had a history of having those around him indicted for criminal corruption the chance to end laws where they or he may get caught with crimes like campaign finance violations, bribery, extortion or pay-to-play schemes.
Scott Walker, still shunned and rejected nationally after his failed Presidential attempt, was given that chance from his rubber-stamping Legislature and decided to end John Doe investigations in Wisconsin. If these investigations caught six of his staff with indictments, he gleefully signed the Act 64 legislation to make sure it never happens to him again. Aside from violent crimes and drug-related felonies, it’s now a lot easier for an administration to get away with what Walker was nearly indicted for.
Six of Mr. Walker’s aides or allies were convicted as a result of one of two John Doe investigations. Mr. Walker’s former government office and, later, his campaign were the focus of John Doe investigations of campaign activities and fund-raising, but he was never charged.
Kelly M. Rindfleisch, deputy chief of staff to Mr. Walker during his time as Milwaukee county executive, pleaded guilty in 2012 to felony misconduct in public office after facing charges that she had used county time to perform campaign work.
Republicans said the change in the law was required to curb what they called unnecessarily long and intrusive investigations that amounted to political witch hunts. They said that other tools, like grand juries, could be used to investigate possible political crimes. In a joint statement last month, Robin Vos, the Assembly speaker, and Scott Fitzgerald, the Senate majority leader, said the legislation would allow “sensible changes to the state’s broad John Doe statutes.”
This week, the Assembly approved the bill overwhelmingly, 61 to 36, and the Senate passed it 18 to 14. Both votes fell along party lines.
Democrats denounced the bill as a measure to give politicians cover for committing crimes in office.
Peter Barca, the Democratic minority leader of the Assembly, said last week in anticipation of the bill’s passing, “The era of clean, open and transparent government in Wisconsin is over.”
Being back in Wisconsin as a national embarrassment now allows Walker’s vindictive personal charade to take another turn to making the Badger State more divisive, more corrupt and a perfect Koch Brothers experiment of extreme legislation that will be daunting to reverse in the future.
Of course, the political pendulum will swing where there is a Democratic governor in the future. Thanks to Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans in the House and Senate, it will be a lot harder to investigate corruption in any administration.
His failed leadership is littered with the knee-jerk tendency to power grab carelessly over a more intelligent approach.
Wisconsin is indeed open for corruption.