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MADISON, Wis.—Democratic Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan said Monday there is nothing wrong with him dating a lobbyist for the payday loan industry.
Sheridan said during an interview in his Capitol office that he dated the woman off and on for a few months.
The last time he saw her was about a month ago and he didn’t know when he would see her again. “I would never let my personal life impact the work that I do in the state Assembly.” Democrats were standing behind Sheridan on Monday.
“If there was two mutually consensual adults having a date it’s hard for me to see that’s problematic,” said Rep.
Josh Zepnick, D-Milwaukee, a co-sponsor of the payday lending bill.
“I have not seen any indication whatsoever that Mike Sheridan’s personal things have impacted the way the legislation’s going.
I’ve been involved in helping write the bill and I don’t even talk to him about it.” The woman, Shanna Wycoff, is listed as the manager of government affairs for Cincinnati-based Axcess Financial, which owns the payday lending chain Check ‘n Go.
She also lobbied on behalf of an industry group, Community Financial Services Association, last year before withdrawing Dec. Steven Schlein, a spokesman for that group, said a decision was made to use other lobbyists but he wouldn’t comment on whether Wycoff’s removal had to do with her relationship with Sheridan.
Wycoff did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment last week and Monday.
Sheridan and Wycoff are friends on the popular social networking site Facebook.
Even though Sheridan says he did nothing wrong, the perception of impropriety is there, said Mike Mc Cabe, director of the nonpartisan watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
“The average citizen already sees relationships between lobbyists and elected officials as way too cozy,” he said.
“This is just something that will color the way they see the debate over this payday lending legislation.” The real test for Sheridan will be whether the bill moves forward despite his relationship with the lobbyist, Mc Cabe said.