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Group wants to again impose waiting period for lawmakers to become lobbyists


MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - A watchdog group has been trying for eight years to get a Wisconsin legislator to sponsor a one-year waiting period for lobbying by former lawmakers after they leave office.

Common Cause says it will try again in the new session – and group director Jay Heck says the need is bigger than ever. That’s because 3 former speakers have registered as lobbyists for groups that favor tax-funded vouchers for low-income kids to attend private schools.

Scott Jensen’s been at that for some time. Jeff Fitzgerald – who left the Assembly in early January – registered as a lobbyist just 8 days later, and is representing a school voucher support group among others. Former Speaker John Gard is also representing the same group as Fitzgerald.

Heck says it’s amazing that three former Assembly leaders are now lobbying their ex-colleagues on school vouchers. Heck is especially bothered by Fitzgerald getting ahead of constituents in bending their lawmakers’ ears.

Heck calls it a “problem that feeds cynicism to citizens, and makes them feel as if legislators are using public service as a stepping stone.”

Fitzgerald has not commented. But his former Assembly aide Jim Bender – who’s now the head of School Choice Wisconsin – defended his former boss’s move. He said it takes a “stiff spine” to change the status quo in education. And he said Gard and Fitzgerald are two strong supporters on the issue.