In my first response to Russ Decker's shocking vote against state employee contracts, I alluded to a theory I had heard whispered in media circles: Decker's vote was connected to former Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala, whose wife is Decker's chief of staff.
Some people who know Chvala find that theory hard to believe. Nevertheless, it's the theory that some have pushed publicly. AFSCME leader Marty Beil, for instance:
"My hunch is that he (Decker) wanted to give Chuck Chvala (pictured) a pardon and Governor Doyle wouldn't give it to him and he's continuing that saga."
Republican Senate veteran Mike Ellis:
"You have a governor and a majority leader that hate each other. You've got a former majority leader running the show from the back room, and all these things came together in one big deal...
(On a side note, as Jim Rosenberg points out, Ellis' expression of pity for state workers, who he says the Democrats "shafted," is bizarre, considering that he, like all other members of his party, proudly took part in the "shafting.")
Bill Christofferson is receptive to Beil's reasoning:
Decker is said to have relied heavily on advice from Chvala, whose wife is Decker's chief of staff, and to have encouraged lobbyists and others to donate to an independent issue advocacy group run by Chvala. People and groups pushing for passage of bills have been referred to Chvala as the way to get Decker on board.
...The suggestion by Beil that Decker may have wanted a pardon for Chvala may be far-fetched, but not out of the realm of possibility. Chvala and Doyle have long been at odds, while Decker and Chvala are joined at the hip.
Rosenberg, a Wausau political veteran and Decker acquaintance, doesn't know what to make of the various theories, but indicates that they're all plausible:
As for me, I'm content to wait and see. We may someday be able to look back on this as one of the most principled acts to take place in the Wisconsin legislature during this session. Failing that, it could also turn out to be one of the least.
What I'm interested to know is what Decker told his Democratic colleagues in the caucus session when they stripped him of his leadership position. If there was some less-than-honorable motivation for his vote, did he flaunt it to them? Or did he just remain silent, and say that he had no regrets?