Empower Wisconsin | March 21, 2022
MADISON — If there was ever an argument for term limits, Doug La Follette is it.
The octogenarian Secretary of State who has been serving continuously in the position since 1983 says he wants another four-year term.
The Democrat in the tan hat has actually served as Wisconsin’s secretary for a combined 43 years. He was first elected in 1974, but vacated the office after running unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 1978.
La Follette has done a lot of unsuccessful running for office over his half century in politics. He failed in his run for U.S. Senate in 1988, Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District in 1970 and 1996, and in his campaign for governor in the recall election of Scott Walker in 2012. He’s never made it out of the primary.
But La Follette has had an enormous amount of success as a hanger-on, a barnacle on the ship of government bureaucracy. He’s long been a do-nothing in a mostly powerless state office, rendered as much by a Republican-led Legislature that has found other state agencies can do Doug’s job more inefficiently than Doug. He blew the one important job duty he had a decade ago. La Follette played politics and delayed the publication of Act 10, the Walker-era reform bill that ended the outsized power of Wisconsin’s public sector unions. A bill passed in 2013 stripped the Secretary of State of the power to delay publication of new laws.
While the position pays about $70,000 a year, La Follette’s longevity has earned him a hefty taxpayer-funded state pension — more than $2 million by one account.
Incumbency has its privileges.
After 40-plus years at a useless government job, Fighting Bob La Follette’s “distant relative” believes Wisconsin needs him for another tour of duty.
“Two years ago, I might have made a different decision,” La Follette said at a 5-minute press conference last week. “But now, with the integrity of this office at risk, many people have urged me to consider running for reelection.”
He’s worried Republicans might make the agency do something of actual importance.
La Follette is the embodiment of the adage, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Inflation is at a high not seen since 1982, when a 42-year-old Doug La Follette ran a second time for Secretary of State.
Forty years later, La Follette is the same Big Government tool looking for yet another term in office.
It’s definitely time for Tool limits. Particularly when it comes to Wisconsin’s long-serving Secretary of State — Empower Wisconsin’s Tool of the week.