Sen. Lassa Statement on Bill to Shield Public Officials from Corruption Probes

MADISON -- State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) issued the following statement today in reaction to today’s passage by the Senate of SB 43, which shields public officials from John Doe probes into misconduct in public office:

“Today has to go down as one of the sadder moments in the history of Wisconsin’s democracy.  Today, Senate Republicans took away an important tool prosecutors have had for 165 years, even before Wisconsin became a state.  In doing so, they made it easier for elected officials to get away with political bribery, misconduct in public office, campaign finance violations, and buying and selling political influence in our state.  And they made sure that, even though politicians and lobbyists get a pass from John Doe investigations, that exemption only applies to the political class – average citizens will still have to play by the current rules.

“Why in the world would we want to take away the most effective tool prosecutors have to expose misconduct in public office, bribery of public officials, theft, violations of campaign finance laws, election law offenses, corrupt means to influence legislators, extortion, private interest in public contract, lobby law violations, criminal violations of state ethics rules, perjury, bribery of a witness and tampering with public records?  The people of Wisconsin want and deserve more accountability in government, not less.

“The majority party’s recent actions continue a disturbing trend.  They tried to gut the state’s open records laws, drawing a veil of secrecy over their conduct in public office. They want to remove the century-old civil service provisions that prevent the use of state jobs as rewards for political cronies.  They are trying to abolish our chief ethics and elections watchdog, the non-partisan Government Accountability Board that has been held up as a model by the rest of the nation, and replace it with a group of partisan hacks.  And they want to throw the door open to even more unregulated money, ensuring that the voices of average citizens are drowned in an ocean of campaign cash. The majority party doesn’t appear to be concerned about our crumbling roads, struggling schools, and lackluster economy, but is solely focused on preserving their own political power and using that power without restraint.”