Thursday, January 12, 2006


Ethics Reform Needed Now
The Capital Times :: EDITORIAL :: 8A
Friday, May 13, 2005
The revelation that Gov. Jim Doyle traveled to New Orleans for the NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament on the private plane of a campaign donor was troubling.
But even more troubling was his explanation for why he accepted the ethically dubious trip in 2003. "It wasn't given to me as a person," Doyle claimed. "It was given to me as the governor of this state." Technically, Doyle is right. The campaign donor, Perry Armstrong, did "give" the trip to the state as a free gift. But it was a gift that could be used only by Doyle. This is precisely the sort of double-dealing the state Ethics Board should be targeting. It is illegal under state law for an official such as the governor to take anything of value - even a cup of coffee. But the Ethics Board staff found Doyle's trip acceptable, on the grounds that he was acting in his official capacity as allowed under state statutes. That's a bizarre reading of the rules. It is also something else: a clear signal that Wisconsin needs to reform how the Ethics Board does its job. Senate Bill 1, a measure crafted by state Sen. Mike Ellis, R-Neenah, and other legislators, with the help of Common Cause in Wisconsin, would combine the state Ethics and Elections boards into a single entity that should have more power and more flexibility to examine shady political deals and to hold politicians and political donors accountable. Ellis' Committee on Campaign Finance Reform and Ethics will hold a public hearing on the bill at 10 a.m. Wednesday. It is time to clean up the way elected officials and campaign donors are playing the game of politics. Ellis' bill could be the first step to do just that. Wednesday's hearing should set the stage to get the ball rolling.


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