Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Bucher opens a can of GOP worms

Republican AG candidate Paul Bucher is crowing over the fact that one of the Dem candidates for the post, Kathleen Falk, has reimbursed Dane County for health insurance costs for a county staffer who took a leave from the county exec's office to work on Falk's campaign.

Bucher compared it to the caucus scandal, and said "the arrangement raises serious questions about her judgment." (Just for the record, the caucus scandal involved things like then-Speaker Scott Jensen, R-Not Convicted Yet, hiring Sherry Schultz to work full-time on the state payroll, with full benefits, while her only job was to raise money for Republican candidates.)

Even though the county's administration department had approved the arrangement in advance, Falk's campaign paid the county a whopping $575. 87 to pay for five weeks of health insurance.

Bucher told the Capital Times that "he was pleased" by Falk's prompt action. "That's good news for the taxpayers," he said.

But that was yesterday. Today, his campaign blog is all over the issue again, with a lot of questions about it, clearly trying to keep the story alive. (One question he keeps asking is why the state DOA was involved in this. The answer is that it wasn't; it was the county DOA.)

Bucher's wife, writing under her professional name of Jessica McBride, chips in with a comment on her blog asking whether the story would get a lot more attention if it involved Jim Villa, chief of staff for Milwaukee County Exec Scott Walker.

This could be huge can of worms for Bucher. It is typical practice for GOP legislative staff to take leaves from their Capitol jobs during the summer and fall of election years to work on or manage a campaign for their boss or others. Staffers who have done that in the last two campaign cycles have never lost their insurance or had to pay for it.

Staffers in the Capitol -- and in Walker's county exec office -- have been known to take unpaid days off to do political work, if they didn't have vacation time or didn't want to use it. Have they paid for their health insurance for those days? I think you know the answer.

And I'd be a little careful about bringing up Jim Villa as an example. He was Walker's chief of staff, left to become his campaign consultant, then came back to be his chief of staff. Villa is clearly in charge of the campaign now, although he is on the Milwaukee County payroll. Once Villa left the Markesan Group, the consulting firm that was working for Walker, Walker ended his contract. Why pay consultants if the taxpayers will pay Villa?

It's about time someone made another public record request of Walker's office. (I just said that so they could spend the afternoon deleting e-mails and files.)

Bucher may have scored a small point yesterday, but it may be a shallow victory.


At 7:33 AM, Blogger Gretchen Schuldt said...

What about Walker and Bucher themselves? Aren't they getting publicly-financed benefits while they campaign? Aren't they getting their full paychecks while they campaign? Shouldn't we be demanding refunds?


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