By Tom Still
MADISON — A source close to the toy industry has once again leaked an advance copy of Santa’s perks list for Wisconsin politicians. Here’s what the good (and not-so-good) boys and girls in Madison and Washington may find in their stockings this Christmas morning. But they better not pout and they better not cry if an alert district attorney asks why gifts were delivered down the chimney after midnight.
Gov. Jim Doyle: Doyle sparred with the Legislature more times in his first year as governor than Muhammad Ali did with Joe Frazier in a career. The state budget, the property tax freeze, Indian gaming, concealed weapons, the definition of marriage and regulatory reform topped the fight card. As one Doyle supporter said of the pugnacious former attorney general, “He suffers from being a lawyer.” The gov’s gifts from Santa are boxing gloves, a 2004 “Stress Busters” calendar and a desk sign that reads, “I no longer have to worry about being A.G.”
U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold: Feingold celebrated the holidays early when the U.S. Supreme Court voted, 5-4, to uphold the major provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill. The happy senator e-mailed supporters with the news and included a convenient online link to his 2004 campaign fund. Speaking of which, Feingold had $2.3 million in the bank as of late September, which was more than all of his Republican opponents combined. Ho-ho-hold it! Does campaign reform mean fencing in incumbents?
Assembly Speaker John Gard: The Republican floor leader from Peshtigo needs more face time with the governor. Santa will send Gard the secret password to get past the governor’s guards in the East Wing. What the heck, everyone can have it: “Re-election in 2006.”
Bob Welch, Tim Michels and Russ Darrow: Remember the 1992 race for U.S. Senate? I’m betting Russ Feingold does. He won a hard-fought, three-way Democratic primary that captured voter attention and propelled Feingold past two-term incumbent Bob Kasten in the general election. This time around, Feingold is the two-term incumbent and three Republicans will be scrambling for attention. Santa’s gift to the three is the time to read Feingold’s voting record on issues that really matter to Wisconsin.
Lt. Gov. Barb Lawton: While some high-profile Democrats fawned all over former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Lawton moved to her political right with a strong endorsement of retired NATO commander Gen. Wesley Clark. Santa’s gift to Lawton: The strength not to say “I-told-you-so” when the Sage of Vermont collapses by Super Tuesday.
Former state Sen. Gary George: What do you give the guy who has everything – and nothing? George has been co-chairman of the Legislature’s finance committee and a candidate for governor and U.S. Senate, but now he’s been recalled from office and must deal with allegations that he enriched himself through abuse of public authority and employees. George is a lawyer. Santa hopes he finds a counselor who gives him better advice than he gave himself.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson: His first gift package came when Congress approved a Medicare reform package that had former the former governor’s fingerprints all over it. But TGT still needs a few stocking stuffers: More influenza vaccine for the long winter yet to come, and enough time to complete his agenda for fighting AIDS and the dreaded CPS (American couch potato syndrome) before he leaves the Bush administration for a private career.
Doyle’s Cabinet secretaries: For Marc Marotta, Scott Hassett, Roberta Gassman, Donsia Strong Hill and Jorge Gomez, there’s only one gift that would matter: Senate confirmation. Practically, it doesn’t make much of a difference – symbolically, it’s important and only fair that they be confirmed.
U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Green Bay: His Christmas present came early when the House approved an omnibus spending bill that included $500,000 in seed money for a papermaking research institute for Wisconsin. Wisconsin lost a papermaking research institute at Lawrence University in the 1980s, and its reincarnation could help jumpstart a Wisconsin industry that is dogged by global overcapacity and aging equipment. The Senate will take up the bill early next year.
Former Gov. Scott McCallum: A milk carton with his picture on the front. Has anyone seen him since he left office? Sure, he was voted off the island, but not off the planet.
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 such as Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and U.S. Reps. Green, Paul Ryan and Ron Kind are 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.