Rallied to the barricades by Common Cause in Wisconsin Executive Director Jay Heck, citizens and newspapers across the state successfully pressured the Legislature to preserve adequate funding for the Government Accountability Board to pursue investigations of official wrongdoing.
State Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, D-Schofield, had attempted to alter the funding mechanism so that the GAB would be subject to legislative interference. Under Decker's scheme, the agency would have been placed in a position where it would have had to come to politicians like Decker to ask for funding to investigate the high crimes and misdemeanors of politicians like Decker.
No, we're not accusing the majority leader of criminal wrongdoing, just pointing out that he connived to make it harder to identify and prosecute criminal wrongdoing by majority leaders and their ilk -- hardly an inconsequential matter when we consider that one of Decker's recent predecessors did some jail time.
Decker's assault on the GAB was a recipe for disaster.
Heck got the word out to Common Cause activists and their allies.
He also informed newspapers that Decker's attempt to end "sum sufficient" funding for GAB investigations would "undermine the board's independence and ability to investigate possible wrongdoing."
The Capital Times weighed in, which is no great surprise. But so too did newspapers from across the political and ideological spectrum, including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Green Bay Press-Gazette, the Janesville Gazette, the Sheboygan Press, the Appleton Post-Crescent, the Oshkosh Northwestern and the Wausau Daily Herald. Even the Wisconsin State Journal took time away from its usual griping about how the Legislature is not bending enough to big-business interests and did the right thing.
The united front had an impact.
The Legislature's Conference Committee brokered an agreement between the Assembly and Senate leadership to resolve the differences in versions of the biennium state budget each had passed. Assembly leaders played an essential role in getting Decker to back off. But no one should doubt that their task was made easier by the chorus of complaint that Jay Heck succeeded in raising.