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

Ross’ term was set to last until May 2024, but he resigned effective immediately.

Scot Ross, a Democratic activist and provocateur whose appointment to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission prompted outrage among someespecially conservatives—due to his often harsh and crude statements about Republicans, on Thursday announced his resignation from the commission.

“I hope my departure can assist in increasing the diversity of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission membership to best serve its mission,” Ross, who is white, wrote in his resignation letter, referencing communities of color most targeted by Republican voter suppression efforts.

The Wisconsin Ethics Commission serves as a watchdog for campaign finance, lobbying, and economic interests, but its influence is constrained by its composition of three Republican members and three Democratic members. Republicans in 2016 disbanded the independent Government Accountability Board (GAB) as a watchdog and created both the Ethics Commission and a state Elections Commission, also with a 3-3 split that often results in gridlock and inaction.  

Ross, the former head of the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, was appointed to the board last April by former Senate Minority Leader Jen Shilling (D-La Crosse) for a term meant to last through 2024. 

Ross finished his brief stint on the commission by taking more of his signature swings at Republicans, emphasizing the party’s dedication to former President Donald Trump’s nonsensical claims of a fraudulent 2020 election and GOP legislators’ efforts to restrict voting rights in Wisconsin and nationwide.

“Our democracy is under siege from the racist, Big Lie Republican Party and its nationwide conspiracy attacking the rights of Black and Brown people to vote,” Ross wrote in the letter. “In Wisconsin, the cavernous depths to which elected Republicans here will burrow to rig elections, evade public accountability and provide tacit support to the terrorist insurrection of January 6, 2021 are a clear and present danger to everyone in this state, regardless of political ideology.”

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Dan O’Donnell, a right-wing AM talk radio host on 1130-WISN and one of Ross’ most frequent targets, celebrated Ross’ resignation, tweeting, “He will reportedly devote more time to his full-time job being a crazy person on Twitter.”

From the moment he joined the commission, Ross made a splash. 

He opened his first meeting with a lengthy introduction during which he acknowledged his own white privilege and criticized Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, then-Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and former Gov. Scott Walker for their roles in disbanding the GAB, a board that drew Republican fire for investigating potential election law violations during Walker’s 2012 recall campaign. 

In that initial meeting, the Ethics Commission’s Republican chair cut Ross off before he finished his prepared remarks.