UPDATE: Former AG Lautenschlager to chair new WI Ethics Commissi - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Former AG Lautenschlager to chair new WI Ethics Commission

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Former Wisconsin Democratic Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager (2003-07) will serve as chair of the newly created Wisconsin Ethics Commission, a decision that has a number of conservative activists outraged.

The six-member commission elected Lautenschlager as its first order of business Monday, after Democrats won a drawing to decide which party would select the chair. The drawing was used because the Commission is split, with Republicans and Democrats each having three members.

In 2004, the former Wisconsin Ethics Board assessed Lautenschlager $922 in penalties and reimbursements for her personal use of a state vehicle. That violation stemmed from from a DUI charge in Dodge County on February 23 of that year.

Driving her state vehicle from Madison to her home in Fond du Lac that night, Lautenschlager slid into a ditch. Her blood alcohol level after the accident was .12. The legal limit in Wisconsin is .08. She later pleaded guilty to the DUI charge and also acknowledged her state ethics violation.

"It was clear from the record that the use of the state car was one that involved essentially a misunderstanding, because certainly people that I supervised had that broader use of state cars, many in the Department of Corrections and other places." Lautenschlager told 27 News on Monday. "I paid the fine. I gladly paid the fine. I acknowledged it was a violation."

Conservative critics were quick to criticize the commissioner's choice to make Lautenschlager their chair Monday afternoon.

"She used a state car to commute between home and work and drove that car, while drunk, into a ditch. Democratic voters found Peg Lautenschlager's ethical lapses to be so egregious that they fired her, defeating her in a Primary. Now she will be helming Wisconsin's new ethics commission? What a joke," wrote Brian Fraley, who runs a Republican public relations firm, in a statement sent to 27 News.

Lautenschlager lost the Democratic primary election for Attorney General to Kathleen Falk in 2006, becoming the first incumbent to lose that office in a primary in 58 years.

But a Republican who sits on the Wisconsin Ethics Commission, and will serve as Lautenschlager's vice-chair, defended the choice.

"I think that Attorney General Lautenschlager's experience as a member of the regulated community will give her a perspective that I think is necessary," said Katie McCallum, who also serves as fourth vice-chair at the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

Along with the selection of Lautenschlager, the commissioners also selected former Wisconsin Government Accountability Board employee Brian Bell as administrator. He will leave his current job as budget and policy analyst at the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services to oversee day-to-day operations of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission beginning July 25.

The Wisconsin State Legislature chose to dissolve the GAB earlier this year and created separate Ethics and Elections Commissions in its place. With the selection of Bell, both commission's will have former GAB employees as administrators. Mike Haas will serve as the administrator of the Elections Commission.

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