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Watchdog Group Highlights Political Power Brokers

Photo: Disgraced former Republican State Assembly Leader Scott Jensen has been named "Influence Peddler of the Month," a new feature from the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. WDC Executive Director Matt Rothschild says most people think Jensen disappeared from politics after his long legal fight against ethics charges, but Rothschild says Jensen still is one of the major power-brokers under the Capitol dome as a highly paid lobbyist. Photo credit: Wisconsin Blue Book
Photo: Disgraced former Republican State Assembly Leader Scott Jensen has been named "Influence Peddler of the Month," a new feature from the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. WDC Executive Director Matt Rothschild says most people think Jensen disappeared from politics after his long legal fight against ethics charges, but Rothschild says Jensen still is one of the major power-brokers under the Capitol dome as a highly paid lobbyist. Photo credit: Wisconsin Blue Book
May 13, 2015

MADISON, Wis. - Saying the citizens have a right to know who's pulling the levers of power in the state Legislature, the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has launched a new feature called "Influence Peddler of the Month."

The feature will be part of the group's website, wisdc.org, according to its executive director, Matt Rothschild. He said it's time to start shedding more light on the big players under the Capitol dome.

"Since there's so much happening behind the scenes, there's so many arms being twisted and levers being pulled and money being thrown around, you don't get a real sense of that just reading a legislator's press release," Rothschild said. "You don't really figure out who's running the show in there."

The group has named disgraced former Republican state assembly leader Scott Jensen as its first "Influence Peddler of the Month." Jensen was caught up in the Caucus Scandal of 2001 and 2002, and was convicted of an ethics code violation. Rothschild said Jensen, who is now a lobbyist, still is one of the most powerful forces in state politics.

Rothschild said he believes few people are aware that Jensen still is one of the major power brokers under the Capitol dome.

"I think the lay person in Wisconsin just figured, well, this person having to resign and then disgraced in public and convicted finally at least of a misdemeanor would basically go away and do something else in his life," Rothschild said.

Jensen originally was convicted of three felony counts but, in a long and controversial legal process, appealed and plea bargained to a misdemeanor. Rothschild said Jensen has played a pivotal role in funneling public dollars to private schools.

"It's amazing, but he's one of the chief lobbyists for the American Federation for Children, this pro-voucher group that has been so successful in draining our public treasury of public taxpayer money to pay for those private voucher schools," Rothschild said.

According to Rothschild, the state has spent $212 million on private voucher schools this year.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI