- Views & Opinions
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has called for the dismantling of an independent state agency that oversees elections. The agency authorized an investigation into his 2012 recall campaign.
Walker, who launched his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination last week, told reporters following a bill signing ceremony in Oshkosh that he wanted to scrap the Government Accountability Board and replace it with “something completely new that is truly accountable to the people of the state of Wisconsin.”
Walker also called for an investigation into the board’s activities. He did not say who should lead the investigation.
Walker’s comments come just four days after the state Supreme Court halted a board-approved investigation into whether conservative groups illegally coordinated with Walker’s 2012 recall campaign, saying the groups broke no laws.
Republican state lawmakers have been talking for months about reshaping the board, and the Supreme Court’s ruling has only bolstered the calls for change.
The board, which replaced the partisan Ethics and Elections boards in 2008, is comprised of six former judges appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. It oversees elections as well as campaign finance, lobbying and ethics laws.
Walker said in December that he was open to changing the board, but didn’t then call for its complete replacement.
“I’m willing to work with the members of the Legislature in both political parties to make sure that we have a fair and accountable entity that manages elections and ethics in the state of Wisconsin,” Walker said.
Democratic supporters of the board have said Republicans want to replace it with a partisan lap dog. Walker didn’t say whether he wants to replace the non-partisan judges on the board with partisan appointees.
“You want something that can stand the test of time, so it’s got to be fair,” Walker said. “It’s got to be accountable, it’s got to be transparent.”
The board has drawn criticism of its handling of recall elections in 2011 and 2012 that targeted both Republicans and Democrats, the secret John Doe investigation that the Supreme Court ended last week, as well as designs of ballots in the 2014 election.
Republicans have also pointed to an audit released this year that details problems with the operation of the board, but did not recommend dismantling it or moving toward a partisan structure.
No specific proposal for changing the board has been made public, but Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has called for its director Kevin Kennedy to be replaced.
Kennedy, who previously served as head of the elections board that preceded the GAB, has defended the board’s makeup and scope of duties. He says one of its biggest benefits is that it serves as a one-stop-shop for questions about elections, ethics and campaign finance laws that often overlap.
A spokesman for the board did not immediately respond to a request for comment.