ZWEIFEL COLUMN: Fitzgerald accusing Evers of unethical behavior? Now that's rich
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ZWEIFEL COLUMN: Fitzgerald accusing Evers of unethical behavior? Now that's rich

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Was that really Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald —who along with his soulmate, the blustering Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, has been a master of legislative deceit and intrigue for the past decade — calling out Gov. Tony Evers for secretly tape recording a phone call with them?

“In 26 years in the Legislature this is one of the most brazen examples of unethical, unprofessional conduct I have ever seen,” the Juneau Republican proclaimed after learning that an Evers staffer had recorded the conversation over what the state ought to do about the coronavirus now that the state Supreme Court had decided it knew more about viruses than the health experts.

“The governor has gone so far off the deep end, he’s making secret Nixonesque recordings from the East Wing of the Capitol,” he ranted. “This is totally unbecoming of our state’s top executive and opens up questions about what other recordings his administration may have.”

Really, Fitz?

Surely, this couldn’t be the same guy who helped engineer secret meetings with hired-gun law firms, at taxpayer expense no less, to come up with gerrymandered political boundaries that many point to as being the most rigged in the country?

This couldn’t be the suddenly self-proclaimed pillar of ethics who helped engineer a lame-duck session of the Legislature to grab power from a man the people had just elected governor?

This couldn’t be that consummate professional who answers calls for special sessions on gun safety proposals and a plea to delay the April 6 election because of health fears by gaveling in the opening of the sessions and then two seconds later adjourning them? And then laughing about it?

This couldn’t be that same guy who pledges to work with the governor from a different party and then devises a cynical scheme to delay confirming his cabinet appointments so that GOP senators can hold them hostage to their own political whims?

This couldn’t be the same trustworthy politician who has had his claims checked by Politifact six times — two completely false, three mostly false and one half-true?

That the tape wasn’t used by the governor’s office for some nefarious political purpose doesn’t register with Fitzgerald and Vos as long as they exhibit phony outrage. They, after all, have excellent track records operating out of the public’s view. That’s where they craft legislation to dismantle unions and devise parliamentary tricks to expand their hold on power. They’ve perfected the art of not playing fair.

The particularly arrogant Vos happened to have been caught by the tape of the meeting expressing his concern that it is “immigrant culture” that has led to an increase in COVID-19 in his Racine County district.

Upset with the revelation, the Assembly speaker implied that Evers knew of the recording, disregarding the fact that it only surfaced after a reporter made an open records request for recordings of politicians’ meetings.

The bottom line is that the Evers staffer should have informed the boss that he or she was going to tape the conversation, if for nothing more than to take accurate notes. In fact, what’s the difference between taking extensive notes of a conversation among prominent state officials and a recording of that conversation?

But, it did give Fitz and Vos an opportunity to vent their spleens and throw some more gasoline on their partisan fires.

My bottom line?

If I was Evers dealing with these two devious guys, I’d make sure every word was recorded.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. He can be reached by email at dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.

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