Ethics Commission’s Newest Member Cut off After Criticizing Top GOP Leaders
Wisconsin Ethics Commission board member, Scot Ross. (Photo provided)

Ross points out his own white privilege, inequities of Black people living in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Ethics Commission’s newest member introduced himself to his fellow commission members Tuesday by pointing out his white privilege and listing the ways Black people are treated unfairly in Wisconsin.

“For my first meeting, I think it important to reflect on not just my new responsibilities with you, but also to what is going on in the world,” said Scot Ross, who was appointed to the commission in April. “I want to say as a middle-aged white guy who has lived his entire life with white privilege: Black Lives Matter and white silence equals violence.”

Ross, the former head of the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, whose talent for berating Republicans with cuss words and commentary on Twitter has made him a political lightning rod in the eyes of many, attended his first meeting with the bipartisan Wisconsin Ethics Commission Tuesday.

Before he could finish his prepared statements, Ross was interrupted by two commission members after saying, “Let us not forget, we are all here because three white men with power, Scott Fitzgerald, Robin Vos and Scott Walker, disbanded the independent agency which preceded this body because they were angry that they were being held accountable for ignoring the campaign coordination prohibitions in this state.”

Commission Chair Pat Strachota, a former Republican Assembly representative from West Bend, said she had allotted time at the beginning of the meeting to allow Ross to introduce himself.

Ross responded by saying “my priorities are what I am all about.”

“I have taken some heat in the press related to my communications in the public policy debate,” Ross said. “I want to offer that the same people who were criticizing the fact that I was appointed to this commission are the same people who changed the laws so they could avoid accountability.”

Both the Ethics Commission and the State Elections Commission were created by the Republican-led Legislature in 2016 when they disbanded the Government Accountability Board. 

The GAB had received national praise for its independence and its makeup of retired judges. It ran afoul of Republicans when it looked into potentially illegal coordination between then-Gov. Scott Walker’s re-election campaign and outside conservative groups.

Ross’ appointment by former Sen. Jennifer Shilling, prior to her abrupt resignation from the Legislature in May, was criticized by many who questioned if Ross would be bipartisan and pointed to his presence on social media. 

Here are Ross’ comments in full: 

Thank you for welcoming me and I am happy to serve as the newest member of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. My remarks will be brief and we can then go onto this body’s important bipartisan work.

For my first meeting, I think it important to reflect on not just my new responsibilities with you, but also to what is going on in the world.

I want to say as a middle aged white guy who has lived his entire life with white privilege: Black Lives Matter and white silence equals violence.

Black women and men are in the streets protesting in every corner of this country and in every corner of Wisconsin. Black people are demanding simple accountability because they are treated unequally in white America.

Black people are treated unequally by the police. Black people are treated unequally in the workplace. Black people are treated unequally in the housing market. Black people are treated unequally in schools. Black people are treated unequally in health care. And most assuredly Black people are treated unequally at the voting booth, where the right to vote has been under savage assault.

And so at the same time Black people are rightfully demanding equality and accountability, I join you here on this Ethics Commission.

Let us not forget, we are all here because three white men with power, Scott Fitzgerald, Robin Vos and Scott Walker, disbanded the independent agency which preceded the body because they were angry that they were being held accountable for ignoring the campaign coordination prohibitions in this state.

Not only did these three white men with power get the Supreme Court they controlled to shut down the investigation and not only did they disband the previous independent investigative agency, they also went in and further changed the laws to give they and their colleagues a special get out of jail free card for political misconduct, so none of them would ever be subject to a John Doe investigation of that type again.

I don’t point this out to pick a partisan fight. I point this out because this is just another example of how our system protects white people from accountability at the same time Black people are treated unfairly and unequally and unconstitutionally by this same system. On this commission, I am committed to do all I can to ensure the system over which we have purview is fair and equitable. 

Thank you for giving me this time to introduce myself.