Doyle Spin on Vitamin Grants Unconvincing
Concerns Over Grantmaking Process, Link to Donations Persist
June 17, 2002
Madison - A statement released by Attorney General Jim Doyle’s gubernatorial campaign on Friday does not put to rest concerns about grants his office handed out to charitable groups and campaign contributions he received from officials of some of the agencies, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign said today.
"The fact that people with some connection to groups that received grants from the attorney general have made campaign contributions to other candidates does not make the timing of donations to Doyle any less suspicious," WDC executive director Mike McCabe said.
One of the contributions was a $10,000 donation from Hollywood producer Jerry Zucker. The contribution came three weeks after Doyle issued a $250,000 state grant in Zucker’s name to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for one of the filmmaker’s pet causes.
"The Doyle campaign’s spin hardly makes the Zucker contribution smell like a rose," McCabe said.
WDC remains concerned that the attorney general was able to personally steer grants to particular groups and there was no formal request for proposals allowing other groups to compete for the grants. The grantmaking procedure, coupled with the timing of donations from individuals connected to the groups receiving grants, creates an unseemly appearance, he added.
"Any time one elected official has the power to singlehandedly spend state funds, it’s an invitation to mischief. That’s why checks and balances are so important in our system," McCabe said. "The appropriate checks and balances were missing in the system used to award the vitamin settlement grants. The flaws in the process magnify the concern about the campaign contributions."
WDC’s contributor database shows at least four of the individuals - Sherrie Tussler, Jose Milan, Criselda Ros-Dukler and Michael Frank - who made contributions to Doyle’s campaign shortly before or just after their groups received grants have no prior history of giving to Doyle or any other state candidate.
"It is disappointing that the state’s top law enforcement official is not more sensitive to the obvious appearance of a conflict of interest in this case," McCabe said. "The attorney general could take a big step toward laying the suspicions to rest if he would just acknowledge the apparent conflict and return the donations."