Opinion: Jensen's scorched-earth defense endangers Justice Prosser
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For a few seconds last week, I was thinking: Scott Jensen, whistle-blower.
After all, the Town of Brookfield Republican Assemblyman had ripped the lid off corruption, right, with that dramatic, pre-trial document dump in Dane County Circuit Court?
There it was, page and after page after page of once-secret interviews with big-name politicos, many of whom said that campaigning or fundraising or otherwise politicking in a most partisan way on state time -- illegal under Wisconsin law -- was commonplace at the Capitol. By both parties. For decades.
But to be accurate, I wanted to check whether it would be correct to confer whistle-blower status on Scooter, formerly his party's Assembly caucus director and then Assembly speaker, since whistle-blowers get and deserve our thanks.
So I dug into the meaning of the term -- whistle-blower -- and the verdict is: Nope. Whistle-blower does not go on the Jensen resume.
To be a true whistle-blower, you've got to be exposing wrong-doing to prevent its recurrence, say Internet wordsmiths.
Jensen could have blown the whistle anytime prior to his being charged, and didn't. That would have been whistle-blowing, and knowing now what we know about a lot of things, Jensen might be governor now had he been the whistle-blowing candidate.
But what Jensen did through his attorney's courtroom filing (tossed out of court on Friday, Feb. 3) was outing a lot of current and retired political figures whom the prosecutors chose not to prosecute -- thereby mounting a defense at those other people's expense.
That sure as heck isn't whistle-blowing. It's blowing people up -- people that the justice system says are innocent.
Some of these synonyms for whistle-blowing that I found in an online data base called Moby Thesaurus better fit Jensen's legal maneuver:
"Betrayer, blab, blabber, blabberer, blabbermouth, delator, fink, informer, narc, peacher, snitch, snitcher, spy, squealer, stool pigeon, stoolie, talebearer, tattler, tattletale, telltale."
Some have speculated that Jensen just wanted to take a lot of other people down with him. That could turn out to be a lot of people, indeed: His witness list, though it could be pared down by Feb. 8, now includes former GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson, for whom Jensen worked as chief of staff and campaign manager.
Also showing up on the Jensen witness list: James Klauser, Thompson's Administration secretary, the unofficial deputy governor, the Thompson campaign's perpetual chairman, and husband to the campaign's treasurer.
Here is the oddest consequence of Jensen's scorched earth disclosure tactic.
Former Republican Assembly Minority Leader and Speaker David T. Prosser, Jr. shows up in the documents saying that the caucus staffs under the direction of both parties' leaderships participated in political activities like these:
a. Campaign and political meetings in the Capitol office;
b. Assisting the speaker and the elected leadership by recruiting candidates;
c. Gathering voting lists and target lists;
d. Setting up, attending and staffing fundraisers; and
e. Assisting legislators in creating and implementing office plans.
Some of these practices are at the heart of what has been alleged as illegal by Capitol corruption prosecutors, and that's a problem for Prosser because now he is a state Supreme Court Justice.
Jensen's disclosures brought embarrassment to a number of state politicians, and the GOP side of the blogosphere and talk radio went into manic delight when the name of Rich Judge, Gov. Jim Doyle's campaign manager cropped up in the documents.
But for crying out loud. Prosser isn't doing staff work on a campaign. He's on the State Supreme Court!
Certainly Prosser can never touch a Capitol corruption case if it lands on his desk.
But what about cases involving other political lawbreaking? Or misconduct in public office. If I were a defendant with a case before the Supreme Court, I might be tempted to ask Prosser to step aside because of what is in his statement.
I've never met Dave Prosser. People who know him say he's a good guy. And maybe he's nothing more than an innocent bystander wounded by Scott Jensen's tactical drive-by.
But wouldn't it be ironic if Prosser had to step down from the court before his term ends in 2011 because Jensen chose to associate him with the corruption scandal?
Imagine the height of the irony if Doyle got to fill that vacancy after being re-elected in a campaign directed by.Rich Judge.
That still wouldn't earn Jensen righteous whistle-blower status, but he'd sure rate a longer footnote in the Wisconsin Blue Book.
James Rowen is a Milwaukee writer and a former Milwaukee mayoral aide.
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Jeff Cartier said: Generally speaking, people stay away from things that make them sick. Unfortunately Wisconsin state politics is one of these sickening things that people of good will stay away from. Thanks for the article. I don't see enough reporting/editorializing on the awful state of our state political body...which is very sickening!
Cozen Beguile said: Yup, if one jumps off a bridge we all follow. MOM! He did it first, it's his fault, he started it! WAA! PEACE!
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