Reform Groups File Complaint Over Caucus Scandal

June 6, 2001

Madison - The heads of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and Common Cause in Wisconsin today filed a formal complaint with the state Elections Board alleging violations of state campaign finance laws by the Democratic and Republican legislative caucuses overseen by legislative leaders in both houses.

In the complaint, CC/WI executive director Jay Heck and WDC executive director Mike McCabe also allege illegal collusion between an independent special interest group called Project Vote Informed and the Assembly Republican Caucus.

The complaint names Senate Majority Leader Charles Chvala, Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, Senate Minority Leader Mary Panzer and Representative Shirley Krug, who was Assembly Minority Leader when the apparent violations occurred. It also names the four partisan caucuses and their directors, as well as Project Vote Informed treasurer Todd Rongstad.

An ongoing investigative series by the Wisconsin State Journal has revealed widespread campaigning by caucus employees using state facilities and resources. Despite the mounting evidence of wrongdoing, the Elections Board has ignored the reform groups’ call for an investigation. Although the Board has the authority to investigate at its own initiative, it signaled that it would not launch a probe without a formal complaint from a citizen.

"The Board’s position is ridiculous. It’s like a police officer watching a crime being committed and not doing anything unless someone complains. If it takes a formal complaint to get the Board to do its job, we’e happy to jump through the hoop," McCabe said.

"These allegations are serious and substantial and we would expect that the state Elections Board would give them the highest priority," Heck said. "A full, complete and expedited investigation must be undertaken immediately so that the citizens of Wisconsin know that all of this dirt isn’t just being swept under the rug."

All legislators - but especially the four legislative leaders - are responsible for any illegal activity because the caucuses directly serve the legislature and operate under the supervision of legislative leaders, McCabe and Heck said.

"It’s obvious laws have been broken and taxpayer money has been badly misused. Our state lawmakers can’t be allowed to escape accountability for this scandal," McCabe said.

"It is clear that something fundamentally wrong has occurred and the illegality and corruption must be uncovered and rooted out of the Capitol completely, like a cancer, or this disease will just spread and get worse," Heck concluded.

Campaign Finance Complaint Before the State Elections Board

The Complaint of

Jay Heck,
Executive Director,
Common Cause in Wisconsin,
152 West Johnson Street,
Madison, WI 53703;

and Mike McCabe,
Executive Director,
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign,
16 North Carroll Street, Suite 420,
Madison, WI 53703;

complainants,

against

Senate Majority Leader Charles Chvala;
Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen;
Senate Minority Leader Mary Panzer;
Representative Shirley Krug, former Assembly Minority Leader;
Assembly Democratic Caucus, Rich Judge, director;
Assembly Republican Caucus, Jason Kratochwill, director;
Senate Democratic Caucus, Jon Carson, director;
Senate Republican Caucus, Brian Fraley, director;
and Project Vote Informed, Todd Rongstad, treasurer;

respondents.
 

I, Jay Heck, and I, Mike McCabe, allege that the above-named legislative caucuses under the supervision of the above-named legislative leaders violated s.11.24 of the Wisconsin Statutes by making political contributions with funds or property other than those belonging to the contributor. We further allege that Project Vote Informed, Todd Rongstad, treasurer, violated s.11.06(7) by acting in cooperation or coordination with the Assembly Republican Caucus under the supervision of Assembly Speaker Jensen.

We have knowledge of telephone records, photographs, memoranda, e-mail communications and documents including but not limited to receipts, job descriptions and campaign literature that show contributions or services for a political purpose were or are being provided by caucus employees using state facilities and resources. Based on this information, we believe s.11.24 of the Wisconsin Statutes has been violated in the manner described.

We also have knowledge of documentation including but not limited to photographs that show collaboration between Project Vote Informed and the Assembly Republican Caucus, which worked on behalf of legislative candidates who were the beneficiaries of Project Vote Informed’s independent expenditures. Based on this knowledge, we believe that s.11.06(7) of the Wisconsin Statutes has been violated in the manner described.

If, in the course of investigating the allegations outlined in this complain, evidence of violations of sections of the Wisconsin Statutes other than ss.11.24 and 11.06(7)are found, we ask that appropriate enforcement actions be taken on those violations as well.

A copy of this complaint has been sent by first class mail to the respondents.