How would we report on Scott Walker if he were a leader in another country?

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. (Credit: Gateway Technical College)

I am again stealing a page from Slate’s Joshua Keating, who has a series of stories about events in the United States “using the tropes and tone normally employed by the American media to describe events in other countries.”

Milwaukee, WI – The head of a state located in the central United States (U.S.) succeeded in a bid to weaken anti-corruption laws. It is the latest power grab by Gov. Scott Walker. The new measure prevents the type of investigation that led to two prior corruption charges against Walker – both of which he beat.

“The era of clean, open and transparent government in Wisconsin is over. I fear for the future of democracy in Wisconsin, and I am not overstating the problem, in my judgment,” said Peter Barca, leader of the opposition Democratic party for the Assembly, a state legislative body.

Walker, a man who failed in a recent bid for the presidency of the U.S., rose to prominence across the in 2011 during a showdown over collective bargaining. Walker proposed a law to cut the state’s budget deficit included provisions that eliminated collective bargaining for public sector workers over pensions and health care. Union supporters rallied against the governor and opposition lawmakers fled the state to prevent a vote on the law. Walker eventually won and gained national support from the extremist Tea Party sect of the Republican party.

The recent measure, passed by the ruling Republican party, carved out an exception in the long-standing John Doe law to protect government officials from corruption investigations. It prevents investigators from conducting their work on government officials in secret. Supporters of the law say it is necessary in order to ensure leaders are held accountable. Walker and fellow Republicans believe the law allowed for prolonged and politically motivated investigations.

The governor has faced two of these investigations. Misconduct by Walker aides and associates during his tenure as Milwaukee county executive led to six convictions. The second investigation, into illegal campaign fundraising, was stopped by the courts led by judges with ties to the groups being investigated. Both cases used the John Doe law to collect evidence and testimony.

It is not the only move Walker has made to weaken the power of his opponents. Republicans are working to eliminate Wisconsin’s nonpartisan Government Accountability Board and pass new laws that loosen restrictions on campaign donations.

“Republicans should be less concerned about covering up Gov. Walker’s political scandals and more focused on helping hardworking Wisconsin families,” said Jennifer Shilling, opposition leader in the state’s Senate.

The changes lay the groundwork for protecting Wisconsin lawmakers going forward. Walker will remain in office until 2018 and it is becoming increasingly difficult for the people of Wisconsin to hold him and his supporters accountable.

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About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.