Monday, January 30, 2006


Editorial: Doyle should clean house
CAPITAL TIMES - An editorial
Gov. Jim Doyle needs to make a New Year's resolution to clean up his political act.

The governor's fast-and-loose approach to campaign fundraising and government ethics caught up with him in the last weeks of 2005.

Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann, the state's longest-serving prosecutor, delivered a blistering personal indictment of Doyle in mid-December, when McCann told reporters that, under Doyle, "the government is for sale."

McCann condemned schemes that had directed money from Indian tribes with gambling interests in the state to pro-Doyle campaign groups and suggested that the governor is more interested in taking advantage of the current corrupt system than in fixing it.

Gov. Jim Doyle speaks during a news conference Dec. 1 in Milwaukee, before executives from the world's five largest oil companies were scheduled to appear at a state administrative hearing on increases in gas and oil profits this year.
In no uncertain terms, the veteran prosecutor urged Doyle to change course and embrace the current push to clean up state politics.

"There needs to be serious, organic change on campaign financing. If there isn't, this will continue," said McCann, whose office played a critical role in investigating the legislative caucus scandal and in successfully prosecuting former state Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala, D-Madison. "There will be another day when another legislative leader is in a criminal courtroom. I want clean government back in our state. It can be done."

Doyle's response to McCann's call was embarrassing. After attempting to blur the issues by making the false claim that McCann had his facts wrong, Doyle said, "I'm the one who has asked several times for changes in the (campaign finance laws)."

"And," whined the governor, who is expected to raise more than $10 million for his 2006 re-election campaign, "a lot more has been spent against me than for me."

Where do we begin?

First off, Doyle has not been a serious advocate for campaign finance reform. He has been an obstacle to it.

Second, Doyle does not seem to understand that genuine campaign finance reforms are needed so that campaigns are no longer about who spends more against whom.

Instead of getting angry with McCann, Doyle should have recognized the district attorney's words as a friendly warning to act before it's too late. Doyle and his aides are now the subject of one of the broadest investigations of political wrongdoing ever seen in Wisconsin. In addition to an extremely serious investigation of a state travel contract that was given to one of Doyle's major donors, authorities are now examining whether donations from utility executives to Doyle's campaign were linked to a decision by state regulators to approve the sale of the Kewaunee nuclear power plant, sources say.

Published reports indicate that state and federal authorities are asking whether the controversial decision by the state Public Service Commission to allow the $191.5 million sale of the Kewaunee nuclear plant in July might have resulted from a political quid pro quo.

Whether Doyle can survive the political fallout from these investigations remains to be seen. But he will stand himself in better stead with the voters of Wisconsin if he returns all of the campaign contributions he has received from sources that are currently under scrutiny and follows McCann's advice to start promoting campaign finance reform.

The governor can, and should, do that by calling a special session of the Legislature to enact needed reforms in the first weeks of 2006.

Published: December 28, 2005


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