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Watchdog Groups Decry Effort to Abolish Legislative Audit Bureau

PHOTO: A Republican proposal being considered at the Wisconsin State Capitol would dismantle the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau. Three 'good government' groups in the state, including Common Cause of Wisconsin, say the attempt is payback for an agency report that exposed gross mismanagement in one of Governor Scott Walker's signature agencies. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: A Republican proposal being considered at the Wisconsin State Capitol would dismantle the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau. Three 'good government' groups in the state, including Common Cause of Wisconsin, say the attempt is payback for an agency report that exposed gross mismanagement in one of Governor Scott Walker's signature agencies. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
June 11, 2015

MADISON, Wis. – Calling it a partisan attempt to eliminate an independent entity that can identify and investigate political corruption in Wisconsin, Common Cause and two other watchdog groups have condemned a proposal to eliminate the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau.

Jay Heck, director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, says the proposal is payback for a recent high profile report from the bureau, critical of mismanagement at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

The report pointed out things such as a $700,000 loan to an aviation company that was never repaid, lack of oversight and other mismanagement.

"That report resulted in this partisan attempt to destroy the Legislative Audit Bureau in much the same way that partisans in the legislature have attempted to destroy the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, another nonpartisan entity watchdog in our state," Heck stresses.

The proposal would also empower the Joint Committee on Legislative Organization, now run by Republicans, to appoint an inspector general in each large state agency for a six-year term.

The inspector general for the Department of Justice would be authorized to audit the records of any state agency, any municipality or school district.

Matt Rothschild of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign called that "an invitation to a statewide partisan witch hunt."

The Republicans behind the proposal, Reps. Adam Jarchow of Clear Lake and David Craig of Big Bend, say the proposal would improve oversight of all government agencies, but Heck disagrees.

"Just by the very words that they've used to describe the Legislative Audit Bureau and why they want to replace it, I think tipped their hand that this is not a sincere attempt to improve scrutiny of agency wrongdoing, but rather to mask it up and cover it and make sure that the partisans are able to control the message," he states.

Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, says the state does not need more partisan politics in government. She says the state needs just the opposite, calling for more objective checks and balances to protect the people of Wisconsin from partisan politics.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI