MADISON, Wis. --Talk about your fox guarding the hen house.
That might be the best way to describe Wisconsin's new Ethics Commission, which voted this week to allow its members to make campaign donations to the very people it is supposed to regulate.
"It's astonishing," Jay Heck with Wisconsin Common Cause said. "This is like wilder than anything in the Wild West. It's uncharted territory.
"It just undermines any credibility that anybody might have had in this new partisan, ethics and elections commission setup."
The commission took the place of the Government Accountability Board, which many saw as too effective in regulating politicians.
The partisan ethics commission was put in place along with a separate elections commission to oversee campaigns and elections.
“It’s a matter of perception and public confidence," Ethics Commission member Robert Kinney, a former Oneida County circuit judge, said Tuesday. “We have, right now, people claiming that elections are rigged. We don’t want to create a situation where there’s less confidence in government, less confidence in fairness, less confidence in non-partisanship.”
The vote by the ethics commission to allow donations was a bipartisan one.
ORIGINAL STORY: Members of Wisconsin's newly created commission charged with overseeing the state's ethics, lobbying and campaign finance laws will be able to make political donations.
The commission voted 4-2 Tuesday to continue with the current practice allowing them to give to political candidates and campaign committees.
Two members, Democrat Robert Kinney and Republican Pat Strachota, argued that giving to partisan candidates will hurt the public's perception of their work.
But Democrats Peg Lautenschlager and David Halbrooks argued that their decisions would not be affected by money they give to candidates.
Nothing in state law bars Ethics Commission members from donating to the very politicians they are regulating.
Commission members are partisan appointees, unlike their predecessors on the Government Accountability Board who were judges and prohibited under the law from donating.