Rewriting caucus scandal history, Mark Belling edition | Wis.Community

Rewriting caucus scandal history, Mark Belling edition

Doing political work on government time is common.  It is only criminalized when Republicans do it.  Former GOP Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen and Majority Leader Steve Foti were criminally prosecuted for it while Democrat staffers caught doing the same thing were never charged.-- Mark Belling, in a Milwaukee Post opinion column.

Belling chooses his words carefully, saying Democratic "staffers" weren't charged.  Many staffers on both sides of the aisle escaped being charged in connection with the state Capitol caucus scandal that began in 2002.

But Jensen,pictured, and Foti weren't staffers, they were legislators.  And their counterparts, two Democratic State Senators named Chuck Chvala and Brian Burke.

Burke was initially charged with 18 felony counts, sentenced to six months in jail and ordered to pay almost $88,000 in fines in a deal with prosecutors. Burke pleaded guilty to a felony and a misdemeanor for using workers in his Capitol office to help him campaign for attorney general in 2002.

Chvala faced 19 felony charges, but in a plea agreement pleaded guilty to two counts: felon misconduct in public office and making an illegal campaign contribution.  Chvala was sentenced to nine months in Dane County Jail and two years probation.

Jensen and Foti teamed up to hire a taxpayer-paid Capitol staffer who spent full-time illegally raising money for Republicans on state time.

Foti got off with a misdemeanor plea, 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. 

And Jensen?  Although convicted once, he finagled a retrial in Republican--friendly Waukesha County, where he lives, and the DA decided he was too busy to try the case again.   He ended up with one misdemeanor conviction, a $5,000 civil forfeiture and reimbursed the state $67,174 in legal fees initially borne by taxpayers, according to a plea deal.

There certainly was unequal treatment under the law.  But it tilted in favor of the Republicans, who got off with slaps on the wrist while Democrats paid a high price.

Published

September 24, 2011 - 7:04pm

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