Who Watches the Watchdog?

By James Wigderson for Media Trackers

Former state Treasurer Jack Voight wants voters to reject a referendum on April 3 that would eliminate his old job. However, his “Save Our Fiscal Watchdog” group could use a fiscal watchdog themselves.

Save Our Fiscal Watchdog submitted a campaign finance statement to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission that they raised only $209.11 for their effort and spent only $18.89 on bank charges. However, the campaign finance statement, written by Voight as the organization’s treasurer, does not include the creation of the organization’s website.

“Well, I guess somebody else created that and there was no bill for that,” Voight explained in a phone interview Tuesday. “I guess it’d be like an in-kind contribution. I suppose I could amend it to an in-kind contribution. I should do that.”

When asked who designed the website, Voight said he didn’t know. “I didn’t ask the committee who did it,” Voight said. “I probably should have asked that.”

Voight, a Republican who served three terms as state treasurer from 1995 to 2007, has been a vocal proponent of saving the endangered state constitutional office. Likewise, the website asks voters not to eliminate the treasurer’s position.

“On April 3, Wisconsin voters will be asked if they want to eliminate the office of the Wisconsin State Treasurer from our Constitution,” the website says. “This would make us the only state in the U.S. without a Treasurer or an equivalent watchdog office.”

However, the last two state treasurers were elected on a platform of eliminating the position which has grown almost completely powerless over the years. The only remaining duty of the state treasurer is to sit on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL), a constitutionally mandated duty that would go to the lieutenant governor’s office if a majority of voters vote yes to eliminate the treasurer’s office.

Matt Adamczyk, the current state treasurer, dismissed the remaining staff in the treasurer’s office at the beginning of his term, estimating the cost savings to taxpayers of $1 million. As Adamczyk explained in a letter to voters on Monday, the last function of the state treasurer, the return of unclaimed property, is now handled by another state agency, the Department of Revenue (DOR), more efficiently than ever.

“The DOR now sends Wisconsinites their unclaimed property without filing a claim by matching social security numbers and tax information,” Adamczyk wrote. “In the last five years, approximately $20 million has been returned to the rightful owners using the unique matching program.”

Democrats and Voight have argued against eliminating the constitutional office, saying that it puts too much control of the BCPL in the hands of the Executive Branch by putting the lieutenant governor on the board instead. However, the lieutenant governor would be the only executive branch officer on the board, with the state attorney general and the secretary of state also continuing to serve on the board.

In addition to statements on the campaign website defending keeping the state treasurer’s position, the website also features a “vote no” campaign YouTube video, the production costs of which were also not included in the “Save Our Fiscal Watchdog” campaign finance statement.

Voight offered to call back Tuesday with more information regarding the creation of the website. “I’ll find out today as to who did that, and that should have been noted in the report, no question about it,” Voight said. However, Voight never did call back.