Just how much of a piece of work this guy Robin Vos is was on display once again this week.
Vos, the Republican Speaker of the Assembly, has a habit of acting out of spite to punish and bully political opponents, not at all unlike his buddy, President Donald Trump.
You undoubtedly saw what he did this week to one of our local Democrats. Rep. Jimmy Anderson, who is confined to a wheelchair and suffers from recurring health issues after being hit and nearly killed by a drunk driver in 2010, asked Vos if he could attend some of the meetings of the legislative committees he serves on via speakerphone.
He explained that he occasionally is debilitated by health issues and sometimes can’t get transportation to the state Capitol. If he could listen in and ask questions and make remarks through the phone, it would help him carry out his legislative duties.
But Anderson, of Fitchburg, is a Democrat, and an outspoken one at that. Whether that was a factor in Vos turning down Anderson’s request can’t be proved, of course, but the take-no-prisoners style has been one of Vos’ trademarks during his career in state politics.
They don’t call him “Boss Vos” for nothing.
Who can forget the vendetta led by Vos to destroy the Government Accountability Board after its director, Kevin Kennedy, had the audacity to try to hold politicians to account. He had supplied documents on campaign financing to the John Doe investigating questionable campaign activities on the part of then-Gov. Scott Walker and a cadre of issue groups that appeared to violate state law.
Even though this was a duty of the GAB, Vos was incensed and rallied his Republican colleagues to abolish the board, fire Kennedy and form separate Elections and Ethics Commissions. When it was discovered that the two people named to run those commissions had once worked with Kennedy, he had them fired, too.
You don’t mess around with Republicans, was the clear message. Only mafia dons use those tactics and get away with it.
He’s often held himself above the law, refusing to give a deposition about his role in drawing the gerrymandered legislative and congressional districts, claiming he had immunity. State taxpayers paid $850,000 to finance his stubbornness.
Vos was the architect of the “lame-duck” session of the Legislature last December when Republicans conspired to take away powers from the newly-elected governor and attorney general before they took office. Fair elections and fair politics don’t factor in here.
He blocked an offer for a free study of Wisconsin’s probation and parole system by the highly-respected Pew Charitable Trusts. Although other Republicans wanted to take advantage of the offers, Vos trumped them, claiming the oversight committee had too many Democrats on it.
And those are just the public forays. Vos’ bullying of fellow legislators to get his way has become legend in the Capitol. He’s single-handedly made sure that Wisconsin doesn’t expand Medicaid coverage to its citizens, refusing to accept more than a billion dollars in federal funds, primarily because he doesn’t want Obamacare to succeed. He’d rather Wisconsin residents pay the tab. It’s always politics before the people for him.
He’s known for his penchant for secrecy and was the architect behind the brazen attempt to exempt legislators from the state’s open records law. He has a staff with 14 positions at a cost to taxpayers of $1.14 million a year. He has collected $34,370 in campaign funds from real estate interests while he’s won favors for landlords and weakened tenants rights. He just happens to be a landlord himself.
So, Jimmy Anderson shouldn’t have been surprised. Boss Vos is in charge, and you’d better just know that.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org, 608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.
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