Lawmakers Deny Logrolling Claims

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

Madison: State lawmakers are showing bipartisan support for each other in denying charges of illegal vote trading.

The statewide minimum wage is set to increase June 1st, the same day that Governor Jim Doyle will sign a Republican bill eliminating local minimum wages like the one in Madison.

Republicans and Democrats say those two actions are the result of months of compromise and hard work.

Madison Alderman Austin King says it's logrolling. "That deal absolutely violated the state's prohibition on logrolling, which says you cannot create a quid pro quo situation where somebody's action on this bill is contingent on somebody else's action on this other matter."

King submitted his nine page complaint to the Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager last Friday. He names Governor Doyle, Assembly Speaker John Gard, Senate Majority Leader Dale Schultz, and 4 other Republicans as the main participants in the logrolling.

Lautenschlager's office is not commenting on the logrolling claims, but it just so happens there is a recently completed legal memorandum on logrolling floating around the capitol. The memo was written by Attorney Mike Wittenwyler for a private client. He won't say who paid for it, except to say it wasn't a politician.

"I think the legal principles that are in the memorandum can be applied to the current debate over the minimum wage," says Wittenwyler.

Wittenwyler says the minimum wage compromise is not logrolling, because even though it's not all in one bill, it's the same issue. "It's deliberation over a single piece of legislation is how I would view it. I have a hard time seeing it as logrolling in the traditional sense of how it's been used and how the statute in Wisconsin applies."

All sides agree logrolling is difficult to prove, which may be why no one has ever been prosecuted since it became law in 1911. Even so, King says he'll take the stand if he has to. "I'm willing to go under oath and talk about conversations I've had that confirm that this was the deal."

Spokespersons for Speaker Gard, Sen. Schultz and Governor Doyle called the logrolling charges ridiculous and frivolous, but they declined further comment, citing the possibility of an investigation.

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