Former Wis. leg leader drops PSC for paper group
By: By Todd Richmond, Associated Press, Superior Telegram
MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Assembly's embattled former majority leader abruptly turned down a job Thursday in Gov. Scott Walker's administration to become a lobbyist for the state's papermakers.
Scott Suder, an Abbotsford Republican, resigned his position in the Legislature in August to take a $94,000 job as the Public Service Commission's water division administrator. He was set to start Monday.
Shortly after he accepted the job, news broke that he had inserted language in the state budget that funneled a $500,000 hunting recruiting grant to the politically connected United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation. Suder's former chief of staff, Luke Hilgemann, serves as a foundation official.
Democrats have heaped criticism on Suder over the grant; Walker, a Republian, ultimately rescinded the money last month.
Walker controls the PSC. Suder sent a two-sentence letter to commission Chairman Phil Montgomery on Thursday morning saying he was declining the job to serve as vice president of government relations for the Wisconsin Paper Council. The council issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying Suder will start there on Monday.
"It is an honor to join the Wisconsin Paper Council," Suder said in the statement. "I am excited to have the opportunity to represent an industry that drives our state economy by providing thousands of family supporting jobs in Wisconsin."
The statement didn't say how much Suder would earn. Council President Jeff Landin didn't immediately return a telephone message.
PSC spokesman Nathan Conrad said no one pressured Suder to walk away. Walker spokeswoman Julie Lund said Suder mentioned during his initial discussions with the PSC about the commission post that the council job might present itself.
"We wish him well in his new position in the private sector," Lund said in an email to The Associated Press.
The PSC issued a statement saying Montgomery had appointed Rep. Jeff Stone, R-Greendale, to replace Suder as water division administrator. Stone applied for the administrator's position along with Suder, Conrad said. Montgomery offered him the job Thursday morning, he said.
Stone said he was first approached about taking the job earlier this week.
"I can't really speak to anything about Scott," Stone said in an interview. "No conversations with him. I just, you know, have been asked to accept an appointment with the PSC ... and I decided to accept that."
Stone plans to resign from the Assembly on Oct. 14. His PSC start date and pay hasn't been determined yet, Conrad said.
Stone has served in the Assembly for 15 years. In 2011 he authored a law that requires Wisconsin voters to show photo identification at the polls. A Dane County judge has issued an injunction blocking the law from taking effect. State attorneys have appealed.