CAP TIMES: Republicans can't get story straight on running fake Dems in recall elections

June 10, 2011
Cap Times Editorial Board

State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, is proud of the fact that his Republican Party is recruiting and running spoiler candidates in Democratic primaries for the seats of GOP senators who are being recalled.

That comes as no great surprise. Fitzgerald is the chief legislative handmaiden of Gov. Scott Walker, and he is shameless in service to the governor.

But not all Republicans take pride in seeking to deceive the voters of Wisconsin, confuse the election process and cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars in election expenses.

For instance, one of the Republicans facing recall, state Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, has claimed publicly that he had nothing to do with a GOP effort to recruit a candidate to force a Democratic primary for his chief challenger, state Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo.

When a constituent, Portage resident Ann Feutz, emailed Olsen to say that she was “sad and disappointed” with GOP efforts to confuse the electorate and complicate the election process, Olsen quickly replied.

“I do not have anything to do with finding a Democratic candidate to run against Fred Clark,” read Olsen’s email. “I learned about it in the paper just like you.”

But Majority Leader Fitzgerald, who heads the GOP caucus in which Olsen sits as a quiet and obedient member, says Olsen was briefed on the plan to recruit and run “fake” Democrats.

The six Republican senators who have been targeted for recall, including Olsen, were briefed about the effort to mess with the election process, Fitzgerald said.

“All of them were aware that this was taking place,” Fitzgerald told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Some were questioning the angles on it.”

According to the GOP majority leader, the briefing took place at the Republican Party of Wisconsin convention in Wisconsin Dells — which both Fitzgerald and Olsen attended.

So who is telling the truth: Fitzgerald or Olsen?

There is no question that a lie was told. Either Fitzgerald lied to the Journal Sentinel, or Olsen lied to his constituent.

It is true that Fitzgerald has cost himself dearly in the credibility department, with not just dishonest claims but also attempts to circumvent and subvert the governing process that have caused months of legal wrangling.

Olsen has a better reputation.

But that reputation will be shredded if he lied to his constituent about gaming the election process.