Doyle Grants-for-Campaign Cash Connection Warrants Investigation

AG Should Recuse Himself from Corruption Probe, WDC Says

June 12, 2002

Madison - The district attorneys investigating apparent illegal campaigning and so-called "pay to play" activity in the Capitol should expand their probe to examine possible links between government grants made by Attorney General Jim Doyle to several charitable groups and the campaign donations individuals connected to the groups made to Doyle’s campaign for governor, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign said today.

The Democracy Campaign spoke out in February about a $10,000 donation Hollywood filmmaker Jerry Zucker made to Doyle’s campaign. The contribution came three weeks after Doyle issued a $250,000 state grant to the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Zucker’s name.

Revelations that individuals connected to six of the groups chosen by Doyle to receive grants made donations to his campaign for governor shortly before or just after the awards were announced suggests a possible pattern of behavior that warrants investigation, WDC executive director Mike McCabe said.

One donor, Hunger Task Force executive director Sherrie Tussler, was quoted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel saying that after her group submitted a grant application she was contacted by the Doyle campaign and asked to contribute. She made a donation and her group later received a $50,000 grant. WDC’s contributor database shows no previous donations from Tussler to state candidates.

The grants were financed through Wisconsin’s $6.6 million share of a multistate settlement in a price-fixing lawsuit involving six vitamin manufacturers.

The state Justice Department headed by Doyle has been involved in the criminal investigation of illegal campaign activities in the Capitol. Because Doyle now may become a target of the probe, he needs to recuse himself from the investigation, McCabe said.

"There is an appearance here that government grants were being traded for campaign donations. That appearance alone does great harm to the integrity of state government and further undermines public confidence in our elected state officials. An investigation is needed to get to the bottom of this," McCabe said.