Wisconsin Republican Party Executive Director Mark Jefferson said on Saturday that Senate candidate Mandela Barnes had accepted “unlawful contributions” from special interests, including a solar panel company seeking special favors.
“It’s a crime for a lobbyist to give these contributions to elected officials sitting in front of the window,” Jefferson told Matt Boyle on Breitbart News Saturday about an ethics complaint filed this week with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission.
In Wisconsin, it is illegal for elected officials to accept funds from lobbyists while the state legislature conducts legislative business in session. The Wisconsin Republican Party accused Barnes of accepting seven contributions during the session of the state legislature that began last year.
Barnes as Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin.
“He is [Barnes] trying to circumvent the law. He’s trying to accept these illegal contributions and sweep them under the rug and basically say he’s exempt from the law,” Jefferson said. “We believe there is clearly illegal activity here, so we have filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission here in Wisconsin, and we will await a response, but we believe this is a open and closed case that no one really pays attention to so far.”
Barnes, who opposes Republican Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) for the Senate, could campaign in the coming months with an investigation hanging over his head that could turn into civil or criminal violations if the commission acts quickly.
Jefferson said the Wisconsin Ethics Commission is filled with appointees from both Republicans and Democrats. “We’ll see where it goes from there,” Jefferson said, noting that fines could be imposed on the candidate and the lobbying firm. “We’re doing everything we can to get the word out so it doesn’t get swept under the rug.”
Jefferson explained that Sunrun, a solar panel company, is one of seven companies looking to make money by donating money to Barnes. “What they’re trying to do is basically get a sweetheart deal from the state,” Jefferson said of Sunrun’s scheme. “They faced class action lawsuits for inappropriate activities, were accused of all kinds of consumer protection violations. So they try to pass the laws that favor them here in Wisconsin, and the Democrats are happy to take their money.
Moreover, Barnes took this illegal special interest money despite a plank of his “Plan for Democracy” being a ban on such funds. https://t.co/B3pW58mt2f pic.twitter.com/pHq8eO8VA3
— Wisconsin GOP (@wisgop) September 6, 2022
The donations may be intended “to make a change in the law without any legislative approval so that they can circumvent regulatory and consumer oversight here,” Jefferson added. “These subsidy schemes and other customers, they drive up prices for other customers.”
“What they do though,” Jefferson continued, “is try to put this political pressure on people and say, ‘Well, if you don’t give us everything we want and all these love places and agreements, then you have to be anti-energy, you have to be anti-solar. And so these Democrats bend over backwards to give them whatever they want without worrying about the consequences.
“This is a significant issue, and it has very long-term implications if left unchecked,” Jefferson concluded.
Follow Wendell Husebo on Twitter @WendellHusebo. He is the author of Politics of Slave Morality.