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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

 1:27 PM 

Committees seeking Dem recalls blast GAB

Representatives of committees seeking to recall three Senate Dems accused the Government Accountability Board of partisan bias in its decision to delay taking up legal issues raised against their petitions.

Dan Hunt, who leads the effort to recall Sen. Robert Wirch, D-Pleasant Prairie, called upon GAB Director Kevin Kennedy to resign or for Gov. Scott Walker or the GAB board to force him to do so.

Hunt said the GAB is acting outside of its statutory authority in delaying action beyond the court-authorized extension of June 3 and its decision to lump together all three challenges regarding Democratic senators together amounts to a “blatantly partisan maneuver to further the objectives of a particular party.”

He noted that the board was proceeding with decisions regarding recalls of Republican senators, some of which were filed after those targeting Dems.

He said his group did not oppose the initial extension, but does not support further delay.

“The GAB has had sufficient time to conduct an investigation into any alleged fraud,” Hunt said. “We are of the strong opinion that no fraud has been committed.

“This is an egregious violation of the rights of all the residents of our respective districts and it is clear that Kevin Kennedy is attempting to disenfranchise those people who signed the recall petition.”

He said the Friday afternoon timing of the release of the decision was designed to keep it out of the press away from public scrutiny.

“Rather than reflecting the actions of a government agency which is evenhanded in its dealings, it shows an inherent bias,” Hunt said.

Hunt said the impact of delays on the elections is unclear, and his concern is about how the process is not being followed.

Kim Simac of Eagle River, who's challenging Sen. Jim Holperin in the 12th District, said her committee was careful to follow all of the rules in collecting signatures and called upon the GAB to follow the rules in certifying them.

She defended the use of paid circulators during signature collection, and noted Democrats used them as well.

“I find it very suspicious that the three Democratic recalls have been now lumped together for a delay of certification” Simac said. “GAB is supposed to be a non-partisan committee representing the interests of all Wisconsin citizens. The timing of release has led some to question whether the GAB Board is actually adhering to their non-partisan charter.”

Simac did not call for Kennedy's resignation, and said her concern is that the rules be followed.

David VanderLeest, who's leading the effort to recall Sen. Dan Hansen, D-Green Bay, also called for Kennedy's resignation and for the defunding of the GAB, which he said should be “replaced with a body that can be unbiased, as it's supposed to be.”

He said such a body should be accountable to voters.

“Here we have a biased body that has no check or balance with the voters,” VanderLeest said.

Chris Kliesmet of Citizens for Responsible Government said having the recalls on separate days could set up a situation in which so-called non-partisan organizations would launch large get-out-the-vote efforts during recalls of Republicans but not do so during the recalls of Dems.

“This is all strategy and tactics,” Kliesmet said.

Kliesmet said the board has had enough time to review the petitions, noting that Milwaukee County reviewed more than 181,000 signatures in the recall against Milwaukee County Exec. Tom Ament within the 31-day period allotted.

“We're the veterans of dozens of recalls in this state,” Kliesmet said. “What's going on here is unprecedented.”

Kennedy responded that the GAB was simply trying to get through as much work as possible before seeking more time to complete the other recounts from a Dane County judge this week, and that the Darling recall could be completed by today's meeting since it "didn't have the complexity that the other three did."

"Referees in any situation are always going to be criticized," Kennedy said. He added that he wouldn't dignify most of the comments about the GAB and its staff, saying the agency is dealing with "an incredible amount of work" in a fair, even-handed and impartial manner.

"We do not have the financial resources or the human resources to get this work done," Kennedy said.

Regarding the calls for his own resignation, Kennedy said, "I think my record stands for itself."

-- By David Wise and Andy Szal

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