All GOP nowWisconsin Senate Majority Leader-in-waiting Scott Fitzgerald has telegraphed his next bad idea: He thinks the Republican-dominated legislature ought to restructure the state's Government Accountability Board (GAB), getting rid of the relatively non-partisan and politically insulated group of Wisconsin judges that now run the state's election watchdog agency in favor of -- wait for it -- political appointees.
Yes, it's true. Fitzgerald thinks the GAB has made too many decisions that favor Democrats over Repubs. It is, by his thinking, partisan. His solution: Make it even more partisan, but way in the other direction.
Leaving aside Fitzgerald's various and dubious upsets -- for instance, the GAB rule letting same-day registrants to provide proof of residence via cell-phone images of legitimate documents -- his pontification on this matter is really, really strange.
After all, following the infamous state legislative caucus scandals of a decade ago, Republican legislators were instrumental (and unanimous) in creating the GAB -- and all but a couple of Democratic legislators at the time agreed. It sounds unbelievable given today's hyperpartisanship, but it's true: Virtually lawmaker in the state Capitol back then realized the virtue of isolating political influence away from the agency that managed state elections.
But not any more. Because, apparently, under GAB policies, there aren't enough Republicans being elected to state office, at least in Fitzgerald's mind. Ignore the virtues or logic or constitutionality of GAB policies, which don't really seem in question. None of that matters. If you're Fitzgerald, all that matters is regaining a political edge that brought both major parties in the state to ruin barely a dozen years ago. An edge you don't even need, because you've already engineered enough other edges to seize legislative power.
Now, the GAB isn't perfect, but for all its problematic decisions and rules, any number of them actually were caused by Republican political mischief when the party tried to infuence elections in spite of the non-partisan firewall. Indeed, outside observers consider the GAB strucutre a model for other states, most of which still rely on partisan secretaries of state to run the show -- like in Ohio and Florida.
Nevertheless, it's not enough that state Republicans have (through back-room shenanigans later revealed in court) gerrymandered their way to total control of the state legislature, likely for the remainder of this decade. No, not enough. Because any action by the GAB that would in any way whatsoever seek to impose rational, fair-minded rules on local election commissions is just too horrific for Republicans like Fitzgerald to consider
So, the man soon to be again in charge of the state's highest legislative body is giving us notice: Control of the state's elections must be re-rigged back to the days or corruption, when it the old Elections Board sometimes took a meek, laissez-faire approach to administering elections and campaigns, leading to that caucus scandal.
In Fitzgerald's self-serving illogic, the majority party of the moment (which just happens to be his own) needs to seize control of the election process, giving itself the power to make political appointments to the agency charged with fairly adminstering election law. Why? Simply and plainly, because the GAB doesn't always agree with the Republican Party!
It all makes so very much sense -- if you're hyper-partisan and imagine you'll be in power forever. And so comes another wave of dry rot to our public institutions. In Fitzgerald-think, the state's motto isn't "forward," it's a joke from an old Firesign Theatre routine: FORWARD...INTO THE PAST.