Former Democratic state Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager was selected Monday as chair of Wisconsin’s new Ethics Commission, and the job of administrator was offered to a former analyst for the nonpartisan board the panel was created to replace.
Lautenschlager, who served as attorney general for one term, had to pay a fine to the previous Ethics Board following her arrest for drunken driving in 2004.
I actually don’t mind that Lautenschlager is rabidly partisan… and she is. I have sparred with her for hours on WPR’s Week in Review over the years and she is on the wingnut fringe of the Democratic Party. But this panel was intended to have partisan appointees. It abandons the fantasy that we can find a panel of utterly impartial beings to arbitrate ethics issues and instead embraces the real world with an adversarial process where all biases are on full display. There is no doubt that Lautenschlager’s biases will be on full display.
What bothers me is that Lautenschlager is ethically challenged herself. You can be partisan and ethical. Those people exist. Lautenschlager is not one of them. Remember that the scandal wasn’t really that she drove a state car into a ditch. The scandal was that she was using a state car in the first place. She declared her home as the official AG office so that she could use a state car to drive back and forth to Madison on the taxpayer dime. Her ethical violations were so bad that she lost in the primary to a Democrat who wasn’t seen as ethically challenged.
Now this ethically-challenged partisan is the head of the new Ethics Commission? We’re not off to a good start.