Saturday, April 9, 2011

Add Waukesha County SNAFU to Wisconsin's dysfunctional politics

It didn't take long for the political wagons to circle and volleys to be fired after Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus' stunning disclosure that she miscued on election night and didn't include 14,000+ City of Brookfield votes in her tally -- and then when she discovered her error she sat on it for more than a day before making a public disclosure.

Of course, Nickolaus, a former Republican legislative staffer, is no stranger to controversy herself.  Her office's antiquated computer system was rapped before the current debacle by the county's IT honchos but she refused their offer to update and secure her system.  In 2006 she miscued again and called the wrong winner in a Republican primary race for state assembly.  Before that she had to be given immunity from prosecution to testify about political hijinks in the Republican caucuses at the state capitol including using state employees to work on political campaigns on state time.

Suffice to say that Nickolaus herself is a polarizing force and her conduct here, even if legitimate, will be skewed by her past history as well as the political tsunami surrounding not only David Prosser's bid to keep his seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court but the conduct of rookie Gov. Scott Walker and his legislative cronies.

With a recount in the race between Prosser and challenger Joanne Kloppenburg on the horizon it didn't take long for the Republican and Democratic parties to hire big gun law firms to duke out the recount process in what is supposed to be a nonpartisan race. 

Then after Nickolaus' shenanigans Congressman Tammy Baldwin from Madison wrote Attorney General Eric Holder asking for a federal investigation of the missing Brookfield vote tally, mirroring the editorial position of The Capital Times.

Meanwhile, pundits on the right are willing to accept Nickolaus' tardy mea culpa explanation of human error which, to be frank, may be accurate but her past track record and the political firestorm surrounding this election raise enough suspicion that an independent review is justified.

Earlier the suggestion was made here that the proper forum for this inquiry is to convene a grand jury in Waukesha County.  That's still a good idea and a far better one than bringing in federal investigators.  Maybe that will be necessary at some point but the good citizens of Waukesha County ought to have a crack at investigating and cleaning up their own mess.

That may not be easy.  District Attorney Brad Schimel is likely busy these days figuring out how to cope with Walker's bombshell threat to cut prosecutors to part-time (80%) status even though the state's own figures show that almost every district attorney's office is understaffed.  And don't look for Walker buddy J.B. Van Hollen, the state attorney general, to do anything.

The failure of Schimel and/or Van Hollen to act may delay and obfuscate a much needed open and transparent investigation of what happened in Waukesha County.  Time is of the essence.


illusory tenant said...

Mr. G., I sincerely hope lots of people are paying attention to you these days because you been nailing it.

Jim Bouman said...

Don't hold your breath waiting for DA Brad Schimel to do anything.

He cloned from the piss-poor protoplasm of his prosecutorial predecessor, Paul Bucher.