Watchdog Wants Probe of Gov. Walker's State Patrol Visit

| Thu Feb. 24, 2011 12:20 PM EST
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Flickr/theaudi0slave

[UPDATE: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sent another letter to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board on Thursday morning, demanding an investigation into Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker's use of state troopers. After state Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald ordered troopers to the houses of all 14 Senate Democrats currently hiding in Illinois, CREW called on the accountability board for the second time in two days to probe Walker and Fitzgerald's use of troopers. "Governor Walker is doubling down on a bad bet," CREW executive director Melanie Sloan said in a statement. "Wisconsin law is clear: state troopers cannot take part in any dispute between an employer and employee over wages, hours, labor, or working conditions."]

Another government watchdog group is demanding an investigation into whether Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker abused his power in the fight to pass his controversial "budget repair bill." Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, a Washington, DC, outfit, asked Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board in a letter sent Wednesday to probe whether Walker broke state law when he sent State Patrollers to locate state Senate Democratic leader Matt Miller. CREW's demand comes on the same day as the Public Campaign Action Fund announced it was looking into whether Walker engaged in illegal political coordination with who he thought was right-wing billionaire David Koch, but in reality was Ian Murphy, the editor of a alternative magazine in Buffalo, New York.

The 14 Democrats in Wisconsin's state Senate fled to Illinois on February 17 to prevent a vote on Walker's bill, which would eliminate collective bargaining rights for many public-sector unions and allow for no-bid auctions of state-owned power plants, among other provisions. (By leaving, the Democrats left Senate Republicans without the 20-vote quorum needed to vote on the budget bill.) A day later, two state troopers were sent by Walker to Miller's home in suburban Madison at the request of state Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald. Here's video of the troopers showing up at Miller's house:

That's where Walker violated the law, CREW alleges. "Nothing in the agency's mission indicates WSP officers may be sent on political errands by the governor or members of the state legislature," CREW executive director Melanie Sloan writes. In particular, CREW points to Wisconsin law that says state troopers "may not be used in or take part in any dispute or controversy between an employer and employee concerning wages, hours, labor, or working conditions." CREW's Sloan concludes, "By abusing his position as governor to ask the WSP to send a message to Sen. Miller, Governor Walker obtained an unlawful benefit—the use of the troopers—in an effort to gain an advantage in his wage dispute with the state's public employees."

It's also worth noting that the head of the Wisconsin State Patrol is Stephen Fitzgerald, father of state Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald and state Assembly speaker Jeff Fitzgerald. The elder Fitzgerald was tapped for the position by Walker's administration.

Read CREW's letter in full:

02_23_11 Letter to Wisconsin Government Accountability Board