Wisconsin GAB

katie wheeler, flickr

Just six months into his term, Reserve Judge Robert Kinney has resigned from the new Wisconsin Ethics Commission, saying its rules require too much secrecy and almost completely shut out the public.

Kinney says the final straw for him occurred in October, when three members of the commission voted to strike from its mission statement the words, "furthering Wisconsin's tradition of clean and open government," although those words still appear on the panel's web site.

Wisconsin GAB Heading Toward Its Final Day

Jun 29, 2016
Government Accountability Board

Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board will be replaced June 30 by two partisan panels - one to oversee elections and the other, ethics. As the GAB's end nears, retiring Executive Director Kevin Kennedy offered a mixed view of the state’s Photo ID law. He told Wisconsin Eye that Republican leaders who passed the law know it's making some voters more confident but divorces itself from the reality that some people don’t have a driver’s license or state ID and cannot easily get one.

Ann Althouse

Two new groups will begin administering Wisconsin’s elections and ethics laws this new year. 

Gov. Walker recently signed a bill that will dismantle the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board and replace it with two panels of partisan appointees, an elections commission and an ethics panel, by June 30, 2016. Republican leaders insist the Board was not responsive to their concerns.

Outgoing GAB Director Kevin Kennedy says he will assist in the transition.


The Republican bill Gov. Walker signed into law on Wednesday that will dismantle the Government Accountability Board, which has overseen state elections and ethics. The GAB will be replaced by two commissions, both comprised of political appointees.

One panel will direct elections and enforce election laws, the other will enforce the state's ethics code. The change will fully take effect on June 30, 2016.

Flickr - Althouse

UPDATE: The Assembly has voted to change Wisconsin's campaign finance laws and to scrap the Government Accountability Board.

Early Saturday, the state Senate voted to raise the amount of money individuals can contribute to state candidates, to allow third party groups and campaigns to coordinate activities - as long as those outside groups don't explicitly tell people to vote for or against a candidate, and to scrap the Wisconsin law that has required donors to identify their employer. The vote was 17 to 15, with Green Bay Sen. Rob Cowles being the lone Republican to join Democrats in opposing the changes.

Bryan Wolf, flickr

Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill late last week, which prevents John Doe probes of lawmakers.

The probes are secret investigations conducted by prosecutors who suspect wrongdoing.

The technique was used twice to investigate dealings regarding Walker. The first looked into activities in his office when he was Milwaukee County executive. The probe turned up a variety of violations, including staff campaigning while on county time. About a half dozen of Walker's aides or associates faced criminal charges. Walker was never charged.


It could be a long, contentious week in the Wisconsin legislature. Lawmakers are expected to take up bills that could affect them as elected politicians.


It was a packed house at the State Capitol on Tuesday, as lawmakers heard testimony on a bill that would dissolve the nonpartisan board that oversees elections in Wisconsin.

Under the Republican plan, the Government Accountability Board would be replaced with a pair of commissions headed by partisan appointees.

Emotions ran high as the hearing stretched into the late afternoon.

mzn37, flickr

Republican legislative leaders on Wednesday introduced a bill that would dramatically rebuild the Government Accountability Board.  

The current panel is comprised of nonpartisan judges who oversee state elections and administer ethics laws.

The new board would be split into two commissions.  One would handle elections, the other ethics.  Commissioners would be partisan positions appointed by the governor and both parties in the legislature.

Now that the Wisconsin Legislature has wrapped up its budget work, Republican leaders are setting their sights on a new goal — overhauling the state’s Government Accountability Board.

Federal Judge Charles Clevert ordered the Government Accountability Board to post links for four years, to emphasize that certain state laws no longer apply.

  Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board occupied the hot seat in Madison on Wednesday.


An audit of the nonpartisan board that oversees elections in Wisconsin has identified a number of problems with its operation. 

Those include having no written procedures for considering complaints and not conducting required reviews to identify felons who may have voted.

The audit of the Government Accountability Board released Friday comes as Republicans in charge of the legislature are talking about doing away with the panel, and replacing it with a partisan model.

Wisconsin should continue banning election observers from taking photos or videos of people registering to vote or signing the poll book.