Wisconsin’s GOP Senate President Retiring After James O’Keefe Sting


Wisconsin state Senate President Mike Ellis (R), who has held elected office in the state since 1970, on Friday dropped his bid for reelection, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Ellis made the move two days after he was featured in conservative filmmaker James O’Keefe’s latest hidden-camera video project.

The video published online Wednesday by O’Keefe’s Project Veritas showed Ellis at a bar talking about “putting together my own super PAC” with several hundred thousand dollars in the bank. Candidates cannot coordinate with super PACs in Wisconsin (or at the federal level.) In a radio interview with WTMJ-AM host Charlie Sykes on Friday, Ellis acknowledged that the video looked “terrible, absolutely,” according to the Journal Sentinel

Ellis was first elected to the state Assembly in 1970, and joined the state Senate in 1982. This year, he was facing an election opponent, state Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber (D), for the first time in 16 years.

“The world has changed and to be honest with you I just don’t fit in there anymore,” Ellis said in the interview with Sykes. “I grew up where you could be an independent thinker and still work out compromises.”

Sykes has been a critic of outside spending groups, and a supporter of campaign finance reform. In the video, O’Keefe contrasted those positions with Ellis’ comments about setting up his own super PAC.

In the video, Ellis can also be heard criticizing Gov. Scott Walker (R). The Journal Sentinal reported that Ellis “frustrated” many fellow Republicans last year when he fought to “curtail [Walker’s] plans to expand voucher schools statewide, a battle that resulted in a watered-down version of Walker’s plan getting signed into law.”

At a news conference on Friday, Walker said he had seen the video, and found Ellis’ comments “disturbing.”