How do you not love Dan Bice? This goes out to my friends who will make an excuse for the governor’s nepotism… politics as usual people. So much for that Big Government bullish and how people working for the state couldn’t make it in the private sector agruement. Career pols and the head fake from conservative special interest in play here, but where will the intellectually honest criticism come from?
No degree, little experience pay off bigApril 3, 2011 Daniel Bice
Just in his mid-20s, Brian Deschane has no college degree, very little management experience and two drunken-driving convictions.
Yet he has landed an $81,500-per-year job in Gov. Scott Walker’s administration overseeing environmental and regulatory matters and dozens of employees at the Department of Commerce. Even though Walker says the state is broke and public employees are overpaid, Deschane already has earned a promotion and a 26% pay raise in just two months with the state.
How did Deschane score his plum assignment with the Walker team?
It’s all in the family.
His father is Jerry Deschane, executive vice president and longtime lobbyist for the Madison-based Wisconsin Builders Association, which bet big on Walker during last year’s governor’s race.
The group’s political action committee gave $29,000 to Walker and his running mate, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, last year, making it one of the top five PAC donors to the governor’s successful campaign. Even more impressive, members of the trade group funneled more than $92,000 through its conduit to Walker’s campaign over the past two years.
Total donations: $121,652.
That’s big-time backing from the homebuilders.
The younger Deschane didn’t respond to questions about his job.
But his father said he doesn’t think his group’s financial support of the first-term Republican helped his son in his job search.
“He got the position himself,” said Jerry Deschane, who returned to the trade group in September after a hiatus during which he worked as an independent lobbyist for many groups, including the builders association. “I didn’t get it for him.”
One Walker critic isn’t buying it.
State Rep. Brett Hulsey called Deschane’s appointment another case of the new administration using state jobs to repay various industries.
Hulsey said he was unimpressed with the younger Deschane’s résumé, including his lack of environmental or management experience.
“It doesn’t look like he’s ever had a real job,” the Madison Democrat said.
Hulsey noted that the recently approved law that made collective bargaining changes converts 37 top agency attorneys, communications officials and legislative liaisons from civil service positions to jobs appointed by the governor.
“This is an example of the quality of candidates you’re going to get,” said Hulsey, owner of the consulting firm Better Environmental Services.
According to his résumé, Deschane, 27, attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for two years, worked for two Republican lawmakers – then-Sens. David Zien and Cathy Stepp, now the natural resources secretary – and helped run a legislative and a losing congressional campaign. He held part-time posts with the Wisconsin Builders Association and the Wisconsin Business Council until being named to his first state gig earlier this year.
Deschane’s father said that during the gubernatorial contest he might have reminded Keith Gilkes, Walker’s campaign manager and now chief of staff, that his son “was out there and available.”
“I put in good words for every one of my children in their jobs,” said the elder Deschane. “But that would be the extent of it.”
David Carlson, spokesman for the Department of Regulation and Licensing, confirmed that Gilkes recommended Deschane for an interview with the agency. Deschane’s name does not appear on a list of job applicants with Walker’s transition team, but the governor’s office confirmed that Gilkes interviewed Deschane for a state job in December.
A month later, Secretary David Ross, a Walker cabinet member, named Deschane the bureau director of board services, a job that paid $64,728 a year.
Not long after, lawmakers approved the governor’s plan to convert the Department of Commerce to a public-private hybrid in charge of attracting and retaining businesses, with its regulatory and environmental functions being moved to other agencies.
Commerce Secretary Paul Jadin then appointed Deschane to his new post there to oversee the changes.
“It was felt that he would be helpful in working through the transition issues,” said Commerce Department spokesman Tony Hozeny.
The move meant a pay raise of more than $16,500 a year for Deschane, even though he had put in only a couple of months with the state.
Deschane’s father said his group doesn’t lobby or work with his son’s division, which deals primarily with regulating underground storage tanks and petroleum tanks and products. Hozeny said the younger Deschane will be expected to abide by state ethics rules in dealing with family members.
A spokesman for the governor said Walker’s team was aware of Deschane’s two drunken-driving convictions, the most recent of which occurred in 2008.
“We . . . felt he had changed his habits and that these past incidents would in no way affect his performance at this job,” said Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie.
Deschane’s father acknowledged that his son had made “foolish” decisions in the past, but he argued that the Walker administration was influenced by the younger Deschane’s strong résumé.
“He’s a bright young man,” the father said.
Michael McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and a regular critic of Walker, said he’s not surprised officials claim the builders association’s contributions had no impact on the hiring. No politician concedes being influenced by campaign donations, McCabe said.
But he said it’s hard to reach any other conclusion in this case.
“It has all the markings of political patronage,” McCabe said.
Daniel Bice can be contacted by phone at (414) 224-2135 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.