Scott Fitzgerald

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Scott Fitzgerald is the Republican majority leader of the Wisconsin state Senate. He is also the former state chair of the American Legislative Exchange Council.[1] He is the brother of Republican Representative Jeff Fitzgerald, who is the Speaker of the Wisconsin state Assembly. [2]

Threats to Overhaul the Nonpartisan Government Accountability Board

Common Cause of Wisconsin, which played a key role in the creation of the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board, which oversees campaigns, elections, lobbying and ethics and is run by a nonpartisan board of retired judges, alerted its members in November 2014 to plans by Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald to “reform” the board in 2014. While Vos at that time had only spoken about wanting to replace the board's members, on December 15, 2014 he told Wisconsin Public Radio that he was "open" to making the G.A.B. a partisan institution, which Fitzgerald had previously advocated.

“I'm open to anything that's going to work, but I don't want to create a system where deadlock occurs and decisions are not made,” said Vos. “So if we can create a system that has partisan makeup where decisions can be made, of course I'm open to that.”[3]

Common Cause recounts why the nonpartisan board was formulated in 2007 with broad bipartisan support and signed into law under Democratic Governor Jim Doyle:

"[T]he Wisconsin Government Accountability Board was created as a non-partisan and independent state agency in 2007 to oversee the state's election, campaign finance, lobbying and ethics laws.
"Vos was elected to the Assembly in 2004, two years after the Legislative Caucus Scandal had erupted and brought down the top Democratic State Senate and Republican Assembly leaders (including Assistant Majority Leader Bonnie Ladwig who preceded Vos and had been his boss). That scandal was the impetus behind the creation of the G.A.B. because the State Elections Board and the State Ethics Board had utterly failed to investigate and uncover the unfolding corruption that was occurring under the Capitol dome for years before five top Democratic and Republican legislative leaders were criminally charged with felony and misdemeanor misconduct in public office in 2002.
"Retiring State Senator Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) devised the idea of establishing a non-partisan and independent agency to oversee elections, campaign finance, lobbying and ethics in the wake of the Caucus Scandal and CC/WI worked closely with him and other legislators to construct the legislation which passed with the votes of every Republican legislator in a Special Session in early 2007, including the vote of Vos and of State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) who has also said he wants to dismantle the G.A.B."[4]

“The GAB judges are not in charge, and that has to change,” Vos told Wisconsin newspapers in 2014.

But GAB Board Chair Thomas Barland took exception to the remarks telling Wisconsin reporter Bill Leuders that Vos’ criticism “grossly exaggerated and sensationalized.” Gerald Nichol, a board member since 2008, told Leuder he’s “never felt misled” by staff.[5]

Vos and Fitzgerald started talking about overhauling the elections board in the wake of the "John Doe" criminal investigation of potentially illegal campaign coordination between out-of-state dark money groups and the Walker campaign, which the Center for Media and Democracy has reported on at length. (See Scott Walker). Both legislative leaders have also discussed reforming the John Doe process itself.

Wisconsin Common Cause Director Jay Heck has pointed to the John Doe investigation as the cause for the sudden proposal to overhaul the GAB. “The stated rational by Vos and Fitzgerald is that the GAB is not responsive,” Heck told CMD in December 2014, “but the real reason they want to eviscerate the GAB is because it signed off on the John Doe II investigation in 2012 to examine possible illegal coordination between Walker’s campaign and outside groups such as Wisconsin Club for Growth.”

“It turns out that legislative leaders want absolute power and don't like non-partisan, independent entities making decisions the leaders haven't approved of first,” Heck said in a newsletter.[4]

An ALEC Wisconsin Foot Soldier


In a December 2010 roundtable discussion, Sen. Scott Fitzgerald was asked by Jeff Mayers of WisPolitics about making Wisconsin a “Right to Work” state. Fitzgerald said: “I just attended an American Legislative Exchange Council meeting and I was surprised about how much momentum there was in and around that discussion, nothing like I have seen before.” ALEC has long promoted a model “Right to Work” bill. Subsequently, “Right to Work” bills were introduced in 21 states. The president of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), Harold A. Schaitberger, is one of many who cite this ALEC meeting in D.C. as the source of the anti-union legislative onslaught.

At the same December 3, 2010 ALEC States and Nation Policy Summit, Sen. Fitzgerald participated in a Public Safety and Elections Task Force meeting that included a presentation on redistricting from the former Chief Counsel to the Republican National Committee (RNC), Mark Braden. That task force also approved the creation of a “Redistricting Working Group.” Additionally, a January 20, 2011 email obtained through a CMD records request also shows that ALEC invited Sen. Fitzgerald to an “ALEC Conference Call on Redistricting.” The call was led by former RNC chief counsel Braden, Utah Rep. Paul Ray, and Richard Ledbeater, State Government Industry Manager for ESRI, a corporation that uses GIS technology to develop redistricting maps. “The working group will host a conference call on the potential legal issues of redistricting, as well as the software available to help make the process easier,” stated the ALEC email sent to Fitzgerald’s office. Fitzgerald’s office said in July that the Senator did not participate in the call. However, Fitzgerald forwarded the ALEC redistricting invitation to his staffer Tad Ottman – one of the two GOP staffers who helped developed Wisconsin’s electoral maps behind closed doors. Calls to Fitzgerald's office confirming Ottman’s participation in the conference call were not returned.[6]

About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's, and check out breaking news on our site.

Sen. Fitzgerald was the former state chair of ALEC and remains a proud member.[7] He is a member of the ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force. He used $100 in taxpayer funds to pay for his ALEC membership in 2011, according to One Wisconsin Now. [8]

In the 2011-2012 legislative session, Sen. Fitzgerald co-sponsored 5 bills that reflect ALEC models, according to an analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy.  When the Madison, Wisconsin newspaper The Capital Times approached Sen. Fitzgerald about the practice of proposing and passing bills (particularly health bills) mirroring ALEC's model legislation, his response was "so what":

"Fitzgerald says he has been a proud member of ALEC since he first became a legislator in 1994, and is currently the Wisconsin State Chairman. State lawmakers have always turned to such national organizations for help brainstorming ideas and crafting legislation, Fitzgerald says. 'These groups are about exchanging ideas between different state legislators from around the country to be sure we're not isolating ourselves in Wisconsin,' he tells me.

"ALEC claims 2,500 legislative members, a third of all state lawmakers in the country. 'It's very well run, probably a little bit conservative, but many Democrats are members, too,' Fitzgerald says. 'It's a great organization.'
"What's so great about it? 'First and foremost, because a lot of the committees crank out what I would consider boilerplate legislation, stuff that's sweeping the nation,' he says. 'Obviously legislators do this all the time, pirate bills from one state that they think is a good idea into another state.'"

"Democrats also get ideas and inspiration and copycat legislation from such groups. But some people nervous about ALEC claim there is a difference.... [T]he corporate and wealthy interests behind ALEC (which others note include the billionaire Koch brothers) are far more organized, coordinated, and stealthy than anything we've seen before in this country."[9]

Fitzgerald and Elections

In the 2011 session, Sen. Fitzgerald introduced the "Voter ID" bill, SB 6 / AB 7 / Wis Act 23

Fitzgerald and Others Use Taxpayer Dollars for ALEC fees

Via an open records request received on May 8, 2011 by the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, it was discovered that Fitzgerald’s annual membership fee of $100 was being paid for by taxpayers, rather than out of his own pocket, in 2007 and in 2011.[10][11]

Scott Fitzgerald Mention in William Cronon Records Request Scandal

In March 2011, William Cronon, a professor of environmental history at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, wrote the inaugaural post on his “Scholar as Citizen” blog entitled “Who’s Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin? (Hint: It Didn’t Start Here),” where he discussed the roots of the conservative movement and suggested that ALEC was behind Governor Walker’s union-busting effort.[12] Two days later, on March 17, the state Republican Party filed an Open Records request for all emails on his university account pertaining to matters raised in his blog, and for any emails written by or to Cronon that mentioned the names of numerous prominent Wisconsin Republicans, including Scott Fitzgerald.[13] The request was widely perceived to be in retaliation against questioning the role of ALEC, and in the words of Professor Cronon, a “way to discourage me from sticking my nose in places [the Republican Party of Wisconsin] doesn’t think it belongs.” [14] [15][16]


Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, along with the Fitzgerald brothers, inspired the new name for the state of Wisconsin given by Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan in a March 10, 2011 blog post, which is now used by activists and progressive journalists such as The Nation’s John Nichols: “FitzWalkerstan.”[17][18]

Support for Wisconsin Act 10's Collective Bargaining Limits

Sen. Fitzgerald supported Governor Scott Walker's Budget Repair Bill (Act 10) that curtailed collective bargaining for public employees.


On November 15, 2011 recall efforts against Fitzgerald were initiated. Fitzgerald claimed that he has not ruled out the possibility of fake democrats to give Republicans facing a recall election more time to campaign. [19] A Republican group has filed a lawsuit in the Waukesha County Circuit Court in order to implement the new district map drawn by the Republican majority to be used for the recall election of Fitzgerald and three other Republican lawmakers. The new districts are not technically supposed to come into effect until November 2012. [20]

Fitzgerald Says Opponent Controlled by Husband and Union Bosses

In an article published in the Wisconsin State Journal, Fitzgerald suggested that his recall challenger, Lori Compas, is not actually the driving force behind her campaign. “For the record, Fitzgerald said he doesn't buy Compas' Pollyanna image. He knows some people are painting the race as a David-vs.-Goliath contest. But Fitzgerald said he thinks her husband is one of the main forces behind her campaign, as well as unions and protest groups.” Compas, who spent countless hours in the snow personally collecting thousands of signatures to recall Fitzgerald when the Democrats said it could not be done, responded immediately with a short video poking fun at Fitzgerald’s implication that Compas’ husband is really calling the shots. She says at the end of the video that while they chose to have fun with their response, his statements were “bizarre and a little bit offensive.” [21]

2011-2012 Committee Assignments

Senate Standing Committees:

  • Committee on Senate Organization (Chair)

Joint Committees:

  • Joint Committee on Legislative Organization
  • Joint Committee on Employment Relations
  • Joint Legislative Council

Legislative Council Study Committees:

  • Special Committee on State-Tribal Relations


Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

External resources

External articles


  1. [1], Lounsbury, Jud. “DOA Sec. Huebsch & Sen. Fitzgerald both Served as State Chairs of the Corporate Goon Squad, ALEC.” Uppity Wisconsin. April 3, 2011. Accessed July 2, 2011.
  2. [], “Because I Can” Blog. “ALEC Goal: Privatize Government, Eliminate Unions.” March 10, 2011.
  3. Shawn Johnson, "Assembly Speaker Says He's 'Open' To Replacing GAB With Partisan Elections Board," Wisconsin Public Radio, December 15, 2014. Accessed January 5, 2014.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Common Cause Wisconsin, "Impending Destruction of Wisconsin's Non-partisan, Independent Wisconsin G.A.B.," Common Cause in Wisconsin Reform Update, November 25, 2014. Accessed December 10, 2014.
  5. Bill Leuders, "Vos’ attacks on elections and ethics watchdog draw return fire," Wisconsin Watch, November 18, 2014. Accessed December 10, 2014.
  6. ALEC Exposed in Wisconsin: The Hijacking of a State, ALEC Exposed, May 2012
  7. [2], Lounsbury, Jud. “DOA Sec. Huebsch & Sen. Fitzgerald both Served as State Chairs of the Corporate Goon Squad, ALEC.” Uppity Wisconsin. April 3, 2011. Accessed July 2, 2011.
  8. Scot Ross, "One Wisconsin Now Exclusive: WI Senators Paying Corporate ALEC Membership with Tax Dollars, One Wisconsin Now website, May 8, 2011
  9. Shawn Doherty State GOP health bills mirror model ALEC legislation, Capital Times, March 27, 2011
  10. [3], “Wisconsin Senators Paying for Membership in the American Legislative Exchange Committee with Wisconsin Tax Dollars.” One Wisconsin Now. May 8, 2011. Accessed July 2, 2011.
  11. [4], “Senate Republicans Make Taxpayers Finance Corporate ALEC Group.” One Wisconsin Now. Accessed July 2, 2011.
  12. [5], Cronon, William. “Who’s Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn’t Start Here).” ScholarAsCitizen.WilliamCronon.Net. March 15, 2011.
  13. [6], Cronon William. “A Tactic I Hope Republicans Will Rethink: Using the Open Records Law to Intimidate Critics.” Scholar As Citizen. ScholarAsCitizen.WilliamCronon.Net. March 24, 2011.
  14. William Cronon Scholar as Citizen: Open Records Attack on Academic Freedom blog, March 24, 2011
  15. “Have You No Decency, Scott Walker” , Botarri, Mary. PR Watch. March 25, 2011.
  16. Wisconsin GOP Seeks to Silence a Distinguished Dissenter. McCarthyism is Back, Nichols, John, The Nation, March 25, 2011.
  17. [7], Pocan, Mark. “Welcome to Fitzwalkerstan.” March 10, 2011.
  18. [8], Nichols, John. “In Lawless Fitzwalkerstan, a Constitutional Officer Refuses to Bend to a Royal Governor’s Dictate.” The Nation. March 27, 2011. Accessed July 2, 2011.
  19. Fitzgerald Says He Would Run Fake Democrats, Channel 3000, November 14, 2011
  20. Patrick Marley, State elections officials want quick action on redistricting lawsuit, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 6, 2011
  21. PR Watcher, Recall Roundup May 14, 2012, PR Watch, May 14, 2012
  22. Committee Assignments, Scott Fitzgerald legislative page, accessed Aug 1, 2011.