MADISON – A source close to the toy industry has once again leaked a copy of Santa’s perks list for Wisconsin politicians. Here’s what the good boys and girls in Madison and Washington reportedly found in their stockings on Christmas morning. But they better pout and they better not cry if an alert district attorney asks why gifts were delivered down chimneys after midnight.
Gov. Jim Doyle: What do you give a chief executive who has everything? He won re-election in November by 8 points, his party regained control of the Wisconsin Senate, his chief legislative critic (former Assembly Speaker John Gard) left to run for Congress, and his golf game hasn’t suffered. Well, there’s always that $1.6 billion projected budget deficit to resolve, so how about this gag gift I found on the Internet: a squirting calculator. Fill it with water and it squirts the user in the face when any key is pushed. Maybe the governor would let the Legislature borrow it.
U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold: A lot of Democrats (well, OK, some) are still wondering why Wisconsin’s favorite son took himself out of the running for president before the calendar even flipped over to 2007. Maybe having negative net personal assets had something to do with it. But other people are still making money on Russ-o-mania. At one web site, you can buy “I (Heart) Russ” T-shirts, sweatshirts, barbeque aprons, caps and much more. Santa’s favorites: The “I (Heart) Russ” dog T-shirt and the “I (Heart) Russ” classic thong. If that doesn’t scream vice president, nothing does.
Senate Majority Leader Judy Robson and Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch – These two are girding themselves for a state budget season that will keep 132 legislators cooped up in the Capitol for the better part of six months. Sounds like an accident waiting to happen, doesn’t it? They’ll ICE-Qube, which the web site Uber Gizmo describes as an 85-pound chest packed with more than 100 safety, rescue, medical and other hygiene items.
Former Gov. Tommy Thompson – As if working for a law firm, helping run a tech company and sitting on a bunch of corporate boards isn’t enough to keep him busy, former Health and Human Services Secretary Thompson says he may run for president. All roads to Washington lead through Iowa, where the nation’s first presidential vote will be held in little more than a year. Go he doesn’t get lost going door-to-door, or lose touch with his mini-empire of businesses, Tommy needs the world’s first Internet-connected GPS device for his car. It’s the perfect gift for the multi-taskers among us.
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce – It was a bittersweet political season for the state’s largest business association. Its efforts on behalf of Republican J.B. Van Hollen helped him win a squeaker election for attorney general, but dumping all that money into independent ads against Doyle probably won’t help WMC’s access to the East Wing come the New Year. Not that WMC will ever decline to speak its collective mind, but perhaps it could use a set of Computer Monitor Topper Skeletons. As advertised on the Internet, this trio of bleached human skeletons assumes the classic pose of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”
U.S. Rep. Mark Green – Not that he wanted to lose his statewide race against Doyle, but Republican Green can count a few blessings now that he’s returning to the private sector. He’s no longer trudging off to Congress, where he would now be a member of the minority party; he’s not burning up air miles between Wisconsin and Washington; and he’s home more for his family. Santa’s gift to Green: Polly the Insulting Parrot, which will say something rude anytime he thinks of running for political office again. Just a little reminder of what it’s like. Batteries not included for this Internet gift.
Lt. Gov. Barb Lawton – Here’s someone who has spoken often about reforming the state’s campaign-finance system, but what happens if Doyle decides not to seek a third term? As the state’s No. 2, Lawton will need to rustle up a bunch of money to run. Santa’s gift to this long-time Democrat is a 2007 “Bush Out of Office Countdown” calendar, which will also serve as a reminder that now’s the time to raise cash.
For Wisconsin’s rising political stars: In an era when scandal and partisanship drives more good people away from politics than it attracts, it’s reassuring to know that quality office-holders continue to be attracted to public service. That’s a gift to Wisconsin citizens. Happy holidays, everyone!
Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison.