The Latest: Democrats back Ethics, Elections leaders
Dec. 15, 2017
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Latest on calls for Ethics, Elections commission heads to resign (all times local):
Democratic legislative leaders are backing the heads of Wisconsin's Ethics and Elections commissions after Republicans called for their ouster.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling and Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz issued a statement Friday supporting the administrators. It came after the Legislature's top two Republicans called for Michael Haas and Brian Bell to resign over their roles in a now-closed investigation into Gov. Scott Walker.
Shilling says Republicans are "trying to undermine ethical standards while rigging elections." She says removing them now "will throw our elections into chaos at a time when we need to improve security, combat hacking threats and protect public access to the polls."
Hintz says Republicans want to "dismantle our impartial election and ethics watchdog agencies without any rational explanation."
The fate of Wisconsin's Elections and Ethics commission administrators may come down to a highly unusual and dramatic vote in the state Senate.
Both administrators on Friday have refused to heed the call from Republican legislative leaders to resign amid fallout from a report into the now-closed investigation into Gov. Scott Walker's campaign.
Neither Elections administration Michael Haas nor Ethics administrator Brian Bell has been confirmed by the Senate. But both bipartisan boards have publicly backed them this week.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says if they don't resign, he will schedule a vote next month to reject their confirmation.
The law is unclear on what such a vote would mean. But at the very least, it would increase pressure for them to resign or for the boards to take action to comply with the will of the Senate.
The embattled administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission says he was "very surprised" by the call for his resignation.
Michael Haas issued a statement Friday reacting to the letter from Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.
They called for both him and Ethics administrator Brian Bell to resign amid fallout from a critical attorney general's report on the leak of secret information collected during a now-closed probe into Gov. Scott Walker's campaign.
But Haas says he is looking forward to securing Wisconsin's election systems to ensure fair and accurate elections next year. He called on the Legislature to support his work.
Haas says he is proud of everything the commission has accomplished, including implementing the photo identification law, launching online voter registration and assisting local election clerks with the presidential recount.
There's no indication that Wisconsin's Elections or Ethics commissions are backing down from supporting their administrators.
Pressure is increasing on the board leaders to resign amid fallout from a critical attorney general's report on the leak of secret information collected during a now-closed probe into Gov. Scott Walker's campaign.
Republican legislative leaders on Thursday called for Michael Haas at Elections and Brian Bell at Ethics to resign.
Elections Commission chair Mark Thomsen said Friday "under no circumstances" would be accept Haas' resignation.
Ethics Commission chair David Halbrooks says the panel is taking the resignation call under advisement. But Halbrooks says Bell has exceeded expectations as administrator so far.
Neither Bell nor Haas has been confirmed by the Republican-controlled state Senate.
Republican leaders of the Wisconsin Legislature are calling for leaders of the Ethics and Elections commissions to resign.
The call from Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos came in a letter late Thursday. They cited "concerns over partisan influence remaining" from their predecessor, the now-defunct Government Accountability Board.
Both Elections Commission administrator Michael Haas and Ethics Commission administrator Brian Bell have support from their boards, which have so far rejected calls for them to step down.
The resignation calls come after Attorney General Brad Schimel issued a report last week highly critical of the GAB's conduct during a now-closed investigation into Gov. Scott Walker's campaign. Neither Bell nor Haas were among nine people involved with the probe who Schimel said should be found in contempt.