By Tom Still
MADISON, Wis. – A source close to the toy industry has leaked a copy of Santa’s perks list for Wisconsin politicians and newsmakers. Here’s what the good boys and girls in Madison and Washington will reportedly find in their stockings this Christmas. But they better not pout and they better not cry if an alert district attorney asks why gifts were delivered down chimneys after midnight.
Gov. Scott Walker – It’s hard to shop for the guy who has everything. Major Asian company to call Wisconsin home? Got that. State budget with a decent reserve? Got that, too. Strong majorities in both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature? Under control … for now. Santa will give Walker an autonomous vehicle lane on I-94 to transport workers to and from the new Foxconn plant … and a few toll booths to pay for it.
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch – Wisconsin’s high-energy lieutenant governor is becoming a favorite on some national talk circuits, so much so that her boss joked the other day to a crowd: “People sometimes say, ‘Scott, you’re OK, but when is Rebecca coming back?’” Santa’s gift for Kleefisch is more frequent flier miles.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin – The 2018 election holds both peril and promise for Democrat Baldwin. Peril because she and other Senate Democrats are running for re-election in a state carried by President Trump in 2016; promise because Trump’s approval ratings aren’t great and Democrats have notched a few victories of late. The senator’s gift is for Trump to keep tweeting straight through Election Day.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos – Amid rumors of major retirements in the Republican caucus, Vos may be hoping for a fresh crop of Wisconsin legislators who aren’t single-issue or single-wing candidates. Santa’s gift to Vos is a short “naughty list” of GOP lawmakers who wouldn’t necessarily be missed.
House Speaker Paul Ryan – Wisconsin’s Ryan got his gift just before the holiday when the House approved the $1.5 trillion tax reform bill he had championed for years. Ryan triumphantly banged his gavel in announcing the final vote totals, so Santa’s gift is a new gavel to replace the mallet he likely cracked.
The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board – Already dubbed “The Cheesehead Stassi” by critics, this body may have some explaining to do over allegations it spied on citizens for their political activity. The real gift here is for taxpayers and voters who deserve a functional, bipartisan board in time for the 2018 election cycle.
Wisconsin cabinet officials Scott Neitzel and Mark Hogan – The secretaries of the state’s Department of Administration and its Economic Development Corporation quarterbacked the effort to lure Foxconn to Wisconsin, fielding 4 a.m. calls, fly-specking proposals and managing everyone’s expectations. Unfortunately, their gift won’t be fully unwrapped for years: The satisfaction of seeing 13,000 workers on the job in Racine County.
Former Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca – The gift of no longer having to be the floor leader for outnumbered Assembly Democrats.
Reince Priebus – Christmas came early for UW-Whitewater graduate Priebus when the White House Chief of Staff returned to the private sector after six months on the job. Priebus is practicing law, writing a book and regaining his sanity. He still deserves a gift: Russian nesting dolls to remind him of when he asked Trump to accept intelligence agency findings and to put the election tampering issue behind him.
For Wisconsin’s rising political stars: In an era when sharp personal attacks and partisanship drive more good people away from politics than it attracts, it’s reassuring to know that some quality office-holders continue to be attracted to public service. That’s a gift to Wisconsin citizens. Happy holidays, everyone!