Saturday, July 15, 2006

Same old Sensenbrenner

still feeding at the public trough

Rep. F. Jim Sensenbrenner's penchant for free travel, paid for by the taxpayers opr special interests, has made news in the past year. Dave Zweifel, editor of the Capital Times, recalls covering Sensebrenner as a state legislator in the 1960s. Not much has changed, Zweifel says:

His reputation for freeloading at the public trough, a place he's been feeding at for nearly 40 years, began early on when Sensenbrenner, an heir to the Kimberly-Clark fortune, had his wife collect unemployment compensation after she was laid off by the state Republican Party when elections were over and her services were no longer needed.

I remember him waging a campaign to get the per diem payments made to legislators declared tax-exempt. They were $25 a day back then to cover room and board when legislators were in Madison and the IRS insisted on treating per diems as income.

Indeed, Sensenbrenner was one of the first of the Wisconsin legislators who started thinking of himself as full-time. There was a day, many will remember, when state legislators were regular Wisconsin folks who had actual full-time jobs along with the people they represented. They'd come to Madison for a few weeks, pass a budget and act on legislation that needed attention and then go home.

It was the Sensenbrenners of the world who started down the slippery slope that turned into the debacle we have today. He was one of the first to write letters on state stationery soliciting doctors and lawyers for contributions and blatantly tell them that Republicans would look favorably on their issues. That wound up as a major state ethics issue.

No comments: