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Assembly Democrats still back Sheridan despite his dating lobbyist

MADISON - State Assembly Democrats say they're standing behind Speaker Mike Sheridan, after he admitted dating a lobbyist who opposes a bill that he took a softer stance on.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quoted unnamed Democrats as saying Sheridan's post is safe, now that he's come clean - and there's probably nobody stronger to replace him as the speaker anyway.

The bill in question would limit interest rates on pay-day check-advance loans to 36-percent a year. Sheridan supported the idea in 2007. But last fall, he said the cap went too far - and he promises to put another strong version up for a vote before the current session ends. Sheridan also said his change of heart had nothing to do with his relationship with lobbyist Shanna Wycoff. She used to represent the Community Financial Services Association. But the group dropped her, and she now lobbies for the Check-N-Go chain of payday lenders.

An association spokesman would not say if Wycoff's relationship with Sheridan had anything to do with the group dropping her as a lobbyist. Sheridan, a Democrat from Janesville, is in the process of getting a divorce. He said his relationship with Wycoff was not a factor.

Meanwhile, Republicans accuse Democrats of trying to sweep a potential conflict under the rug. State GOP Director Mark Jefferson said Democrats complained a number of years ago when Republican Scott Jensen was named the Assembly's majority leader. His wife was a lobbyist for credit unions at the time, and she quit her job.