WDC Files 43 Complaints Against Fat Cat Donors, Ex-Governor

Action prompted by six-fold increase in contribution limit violations

May 13, 2003

Madison - Forty-two wealthy contributors violated a state campaign finance law in 2002 that imposes a $10,000 a year limit on the total amount of contributions they can make to political candidates and committees, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows.

WDC filed complaints with the State Elections Board against the alleged violators (see table) along with hundreds of pages from candidate campaign finance reports detailing the contributions made by each individual.

One of the contributors - Carol Hanson of Delafield - also violated the $10,000 limit on contributions to any one candidate for statewide office in a four-year campaign period. WDC also filed a complaint against former Governor Scott McCallum whose year-end report shows he accepted Hanson’s three contributions totaling $11,000 and did not return $1,000 of it to her.

The alleged violations represent an alarming six-fold increase over the seven violators found by WDC in 2000 and twice as many as the number of violators in 2001.

Chart: Contribution Limit Violators 2000-2002

When WDC brought evidence of violations of the campaign contribution limits to the attention of the State Elections Board last year and the year before, the Board took no enforcement action. That inaction prompted WDC to file formal complaints this time, Democracy Campaign executive director Mike McCabe said.

"The Elections Board’s permissiveness has bred disrespect for the law," McCabe said. "It should not be necessary for citizens to file formal complaints to get the Elections Board to do its job. But the Board has consistently looked the other way when it comes to violations of the campaign contribution limits."

In addition to the sharp increase in violators, the number and nature of the alleged violations in 2002 was alarming because:

  • Several contributors significantly exceeded the $10,000 contribution limit. One contributor made a limit-smashing $18,500 in contributions, followed by four who contributed $17,000-plus each. Altogether 22 individuals violated the limit by $1,000 or more.
    Many of these contributors ought to know better because they have been long-time contributors to candidates for the legislature and statewide office, including former Building Commission member Bryce Styza, former University of Wisconsin regent San Orr Jr., former candidate for governor Terry Kohler, road builder William Kennedy, Genesis Health Care executive Karl Rajani and construction executive Paul Gehl.
  • Several of the contributors who exceeded the limit each contributed thousands of dollars to multiple candidates for governor - often to McCallum and Democratic Governor James Doyle. For instance, Thomas Radtke of Radtke Contractors in Winneconne contributed $3,000 to both Doyle and McCallum on the same day - October 29. He also made contributions totaling $1,250 to Democratic candidate Kathleen Falk between April and October.
  • The list of alleged violators is dominated by owners and executives of construction and manufacturing interests, including Randall Knox, who is chairman of the board of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, and Orr, who also serves on WMC’s board. WMC is the state’s largest business group and one of the most influential special interests in the State Capitol.

WMC’s leaders not only are fighting tooth and nail against reform of our campaign finance system, but now they even seem to think they are above what’s left of our current campaign finance laws," McCabe said.

In addition to the 42 alleged violators, another individual, road builder Ned Bechthold of Payne & Dolan in Waukesha, technically contributed $11,950 in 2002. However, a $5,000 contribution he made to Senator Joseph Leibham’s campaign at the end of the year does not count toward his total annual contributions under current state law. That is because it was designated to pay for Leibham’s recount costs following his narrow victory against incumbent Democratic Senator James Baumgart in the November general election.

State law places no restrictions on the amount a contributor may give toward a recount, even if he or she has already made the maximum regular contribution to the candidate - in Leibham’s case $1,000 - during that year.

A detailed summary of the alleged violators’ contributions from the candidate and committee campaign finance reports is available from WDC upon request.

CONTRIBUTORS WHO VIOLATED
THE ANNUAL $10,000 CONTRIBUTION LIMIT IN 2002*

NAME LOCATION EMPLOYER/OCCUPATIONAL STATUS AMOUNT
Harvey Hammond Jr. Mequon HNTB Corp. $18,500.00
James Connelly Milwaukee Foley & Lardner $17,500.00
Bryce Styza Chenequa Harmony Homes $17,350.00
Jere Fabick Oconomowoc Fabco Equipment $17,345.69
Paul Gehl Hilbert Lunda Construction $17,050.00
Daniel McKeithan Jr. Milwaukee Tamarack Petroleum $16,650.00
Thomas Radtke Winneconne Radtke Contractors $15,000.00
Richard Blomquist Milwaukee None listed - health benefits consultant $14,900.00
D Edward Bolton Milwaukee Bolton Corp. $13,100.00
Grant Nelson Prescott Retired $12,500.00
Donald Layden Jr. Milwaukee NuEdge Systems $12,100.00
William Kennedy Janesville Rock Road Companies $12,045.69
Herbert Kohler Jr. Kohler Kohler Co. $12,000.00
Michael White River Hills Rite Hite Corp. $11,750.00
Jack Waterman Wisconsin Dells Great Wolf Lodge $11,650.00
Diane Hendricks Janesville ABC Supply Co. $11,600.00
Keith Mardak Milwaukee Hal Leonard Publishing Corp. $11,500.00
Karl Rajani Greendale Genesis Health Care USA $11,050.00
James Coburn Whitewater Coburn Co. $11,000.00
Carol Hanson Delafield Homemaker $11,000.00
Mary Kelly Madison Homemaker $11,000.00
Carlene Ziegler Mequon Artisan Partners Limited $11,000.00
George Prescott West Bend Prescott’s Supermarkets Inc. $10,950.00
Robert Starshak Fox Point Advanced Health Care $10,900.00
Randall Knox Jefferson WD Hoard & Sons $10,800.00
Alexander Alcocer Lake Geneva Mann Brothers Construction $10,500.00
Daniel Bader Milwaukee Helen Bader Foundation $10,500.00
Yogi Bhardwaj Wadsworth National Petroleum Inc. $10,500.00
John Brogan Green Bay Wisconsin Converting Co. $10,500.00
John MacDonough Chenequa Retired $10,500.00
James F. Miller Appleton Retired $10,500.00
Ralph Stayer Fond du Lac Johnsonville Sausage $10,500.00
Joseph Madrigrano Jr. Kenosha CJW Distributors/Madrigrano, Zievers et al $10,450.00
San Orr Jr. Wausau Woodson Family Foundation $10,425.00
John Bergstrom Neenah Bergstrom Automotive $10,382.19
Lucille Rosenberg Milwaukee Sinai Samaritan Medical Center $10,350.00
Ronald Fedler Dodgeville Gold Leaf Development $10,250.00
Terry Kohler Sheboygan Windway Capital Corp. $10,250.00
Vishal Lal Greenfield Advanced Pain Management Group $10,250.00
Mary Waterman Wisconsin Dells Great Wolf Lodge $10,200.00
Michael Pitts Kenosha Pitts Brothers & Associates $10,100.00
Susan Mitchell Whitefish Bay American Education Reform Council $10,050.00

*Totals are based on 2002 campaign finance reports filed by the candidates with the state Elections Board. The totals reflect sole contributions by the individual, split shares of joint contributions and contributions returned to the contributor by the candidate.