Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday.
Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes has risen to be a leading light in Democratic circles and will likely have a role in the national Democratic convention next year. Unfortunately, as Wisconsinites have gotten to know our new lieutenant governor in the fraction of a year since he took office, we have learned that the man who is a breath away from being our governor has a detached relationship with the truth and a penchant for blaming others for his misdeeds.
The most recent revelation is that Barnes lied about being a college graduate. For years, Barnes has represented himself as a graduate of Alabama A&M University. He did so in various media interviews, on podcasts, and on social media. His graduation status was shared in innumerable news stories about Barnes that he never bothered to correct. It turns out, however, that Barnes never actually graduated. In an interview with The Isthmus, Barnes admitted that he did not graduate. He shared some excuses and stories about why he did not graduate, but nobody knows if he is telling the truth about that either.
During the same interview where Barnes finally confessed, he revealed another unappealing part of his character. He blamed a staffer for the lie. Last year, Barnes claimed that a staffer incorrectly identified him as a graduate in a candidate questionnaire for the Wisconsin State Journal. The problem is that the questionnaire was not the only place where Barnes claimed his higher education, nor does the fact that a staffer filled out the form absolve Barnes from responsibility for its content. After all, the staffer must have learned Barnes’ alleged graduation status from someone — most likely Barnes himself. For Barnes to blame a staffer for a falsehood that Barnes perpetuated for years is an ugly character trait. This incident with Barnes is part of a pattern of behavior. In June, almost six months after they were due, we learned that Barnes had not yet paid his 2018 property taxes in Milwaukee. Once again, Barnes’ first reaction was to lie. He claimed that he was paying his property taxes on an installment plan, but that lie quickly fell apart when the city treasurer disclosed that he was not doing an installment plan and had not made any payments whatsoever.
Barnes also still owes some property taxes from 2017, but claimed that the bill was sent to the previous owners. The problem, as any property owner knows, is that the property taxes follow the property, not the owner. One again, Barnes is caught doing something wrong, tried to lie about it, and then, when caught, tried to blame someone else.
Also this summer, WisPolitics. com revealed that Barnes had run up a staggering security bill. In just the first two months in office, Barnes utilized the Dignitary Protection Unit, the State Patrol agency that provides transportation and security for officials, nine times more than his predecessor did in the entirety of last year. It turns out that Barnes is using the taxpayer- funded protection unit to transport him to and from his home, political events, personal errands, and, of course, official meetings.
For weeks, the exorbitant security costs for our lieutenant governor defied rational explanation. Then we learned the reason. Barnes had $108 in parking tickets that he failed to pay on a car last year. The outstanding fines and penalties prevented Barnes from registering a car. Without a legal car to drive, Barnes decided to have State Patrol officers chauffeur him around at taxpayers’ expense. The taxpayers have already spent tens of thousands of dollars because Barnes did not want to pay a $108 fine.
And again, we get the same spun yarn from Barnes. He claims that he sold the car to a friend of his mother’s in November and that he was unaware of the fines. Given that he does not have any car registered in his name anymore, the timing would suggest that Barnes just decided to leverage the taxpayers’ largesse after the election instead of bothering with getting his vehicular affairs in order.
The good news is that although Gov. Tony Evers continues to publicly stand by Barnes’ honesty despite all evidence to the contrary, Evers has wisely withheld giving Barnes anything important to do. Unfortunately for the people of Wisconsin, should the unthinkable happen to Evers, Barnes will be handed everything important to do.