Everybody else was doing it.
That is the (paraphrased) infamous defense former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen when combatting charges of using state workers for campaign purposes. Ever heard of the moral majority?
According to Jensen's motion, aides to Assembly Democrats told investigators and Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard that they did extensive campaigning and fundraising that left no time to work on public policy issues.
Jensen's lawyer Stephen Meyer said that it all shows there was selective prosecution when Jensen was charged. He said that he wants a hearing on the new information.
Using that as a defense strategy is less pathetic than the fact that Jensen's allegation was completely true. It might have been the only honest part of Jensen's testimony.
And thankfully, the State of Wisconsin made sure that Democrats caught doing the same thing were also put in jail.
Three other former lawmakers -- two Democrats and one Republican -- reached plea deals earlier. Former state Sens. Brian Burke and Chuck Chvala were sentenced to jail time, and former Assistant Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Ladwig is expected to pay $4,500 in fines and restitution, WISC-TV reported.
Controversy about the use of public resources for political purposes abound constantly in local affairs. Whether it is complaints that Mark Clear inappropriately used city email for a political mailer, or complaints that J.B. Van Hollen was instructing DOJ employees to campaign against budget cuts, the accusation is a favorite of both ethics watchdogs and partisans who see an easy way to drive up an opponent's negatives by alleging misuse of public property. Now Mark Neumann is accusing Scott Walker of campaigning with taxpayer money because he is campaigning during his time as County Executive.
(I will add, that in my dealings with Clear, he has made sure to use his personal email when responding to political questions. Similarly, when I talked to Rep. Kelda Roys last week, she told me to call her cell phone for political questions.)
Politicians like to make such accusations, but they never expect them to result in criminal convictions. When you're elected to be a partisan warrior, you don't expect the pursuit of that job description to land you in jail. When politics becomes a business, its ethics becomes similar to that of business. To neglect an edge in a campaign is a disservice to your team. Political party leaders aren't going to say no to fraud for fundraising any sooner than Philip Morris would reject carcinogens for consumers.
The problem is that while business is (supposedly) kept in check by government, government itself is only checked by members of the same corrupt system of partisan allegiance and perpetual fundraising.
Today, Jensen's trial moves to his home turf in Waukesha, instead of taking in place in Madison, where his lawyers have argued he will be at a disadvantage. There are certainly more Republicans there than here. We'll never know if it made a difference, however, because there apparently will be new evidence and probably a reworked defense strategy for Jensen.
Hopefully the strategy involves blowing the whistle on the whole political system. If more politicians are outed in the process, then I wouldn't even mind so much if Jensen avoids jail time with such a bogus excuse. But it would be a poetic end to his carreer if he went to one of the many prisons that he and his buddy Tommy Thompson built during the 1990's. When a state cannot have ethics, prisons are the next best thing.