Today we are reporting on UW-Oshkosh confirming that one of its employees was using his school-issued email address to do campaign work on behalf of Representative Gordon Hintz. Dr David Jones had actually listed his uwosh.edu address as his "official" campaign contact since 2008--meaning the state ethics violation had been occurring for six years. In addition, UWO released records that show Jones used that email account to file campaign finance reports for Hintz during that time. As you would expect, both state elections and University System rules strictly prohibit such activity using state resources. Now I will leave it up to the voters to decide what accountability they will demand from Representative Hintz and his campaign tomorrow. But voters are not able to hold the people who are supposed to be watching for this activitiy accountable: the grossly-misnamed Government Accountability Board
Remember, David Jones had a clearly-state-issued email address listed as his contact for six years. It was listed on the GAB website--for six years. And at no time during that six years did anyone at the GAB look at that and say "Hey wait a minute, isn't that a university email address?" And Jones used that email address to file the Hintz campaign finance reports multiple times over that six year period. At no time did someone at GAB say "Hey, this is coming from a university email address--that can't be right." Instead, they went along--with their heads buried in their documents--oblivious to a state ethics violation looking them right in the eye.
I can already tell you what the GAB excuse will be: "We only investigate complaints filed with us--we don't actively look for violations". That's akin to having a police department where all of the officers sit in the headquarters all day and don't venture out unless someone calls 911--even if they might see something happening while looking out of the window. Not exactly the most effective way to fight crime is it? And yet, when detractors demand changes to the GAB's structure and function, those calls are dismissed as "partisan politics" by self-appointed "political watchdogs".
Speaking of which, where were our good friends Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and Jay Heck of Common Cause in Wisconsin? These folks pride themselves on pouring over every campaign finance report filed every year by every candidate--and pointing out every accounting error or donation total a few bucks over the allowable limit--yet they never noticed this either? Perhaps they were too blinded by their zeal to "uncover the "millionaires trying to buy our elections" to notice real violations of the rules.
And while we are talking about accountability, UWO was more than happy to provide us with a copy of the warning issued to all faculty, staff and students about the use of school resources for campaigning to cover their butts for allowing this to happen. But I got the sense in talking with spokesman Alex Hummel that because Jones was "apologetic and admitted that it was a mistake" (for six years) that the University will be taking no actions against the professor--sending another strong message about accountability in the process.