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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes

Tom Barrett's Glass House

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Memo to Mayor Barrett: Before you throw stones you might want to think about your own glass house.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett last week called on the only female member of the state’s Public Service Commission to recuse herself from deliberations over Milwaukee’s planned streetcar venture since the commissioner years ago worked for a Republican lawmaker. Barrett was apparently frustrated that the commissioner, Ellen Nowak, was skeptical of his plan to force utility users outside of Milwaukee to foot part of the bill for his multi-million dollar trolley project. What Barrett did not reveal in his call for a recusal is that the leading PSC commissioner to apparently favor his plan was also a top political backer of his gubernatorial campaign in 2010.

Eric Callisto

Eric Callisto

Eric Callisto, based on his questions and behavior at public hearings, appears to support Mayor Barrett’s plan to make citizens outside of Milwaukee pay for millions of dollars in utility relocation costs so the city can build a light rail trolley in the downtown area. Democratic Governor Jim Doyle appointed Callisto to the Public Service Commission, a regulatory body that – among other things – determines whether or not utility ratepayers have to pay for government projects.

During Barrett’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign Callisto appeared at a fundraiser held the night of Governor Jim Doyle’s last state of the state address to urge donors to give to Barrett’s campaign. Campaign finance records show that Callisto has given exclusively to Democratic candidates. The majority of his contributions, $900, have gone to Tom Barrett.

Members of the Public Service Commission have traditionally stayed away from partisan politics. After Callisto so heavily involved himself in the Barrett campaign the legislature passed a law prohibiting PSC members from fundraising for political candidates and working on political campaigns.



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