Do-Nothing Board Becomes Do-Little Board for a Day

Elections Board lets half of rich donors off the hook, while other half get slap on the wrist

July 30, 2003

Madison - The state Elections Board today fined 19 wealthy donors and an ex-governor for making or accepting illegal campaign contributions in response to complaints filed by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

The board levied fines totaling $7,761 against the donors and former Governor Scott McCallum (Table), and ruled that another contributor - Mary Kelly - violated the law but voted only to issue a "letter of admonition" as punishment. Over 20 other donors were let off the hook. The Democracy Campaign filed 43 complaints in May against major donors and McCallum.

The board could have assessed fines totaling nearly $317,000 or even pursued criminal penalties of up to six months in prison.

"The board went to extreme lengths to let as many of the donors off the hook as possible," WDC executive director Mike McCabe said. "But they couldn’t find a way to give them all the benefit of the doubt, so they gave the rest a slap on the wrist."

The board ignored its own policy regarding splitting campaign contributions among spouses when it ruled that 17 donors who violated the $10,000 annual limit on contributions could reallocate a portion of their donations to their spouses to bring them under the limit. That ruling also runs contrary to a 1999 state appeals court ruling that campaign contributions made from joint accounts are made by an individual - not a couple - from his or her portion of those shared funds.

It is unclear how the board’s ruling allowing donations to be reallocated to a spouse applies to at least one donor, Diane Hendricks. Hendricks made a $10,000 contribution to McCallum in 2002, but a portion of the donation cannot be reallocated to her husband because he had already given the maximum amount allowable to McCallum for the election cycle. The rest of Hendricks’ 2002 contributions were made through a conduit established in her name alone. She alone was empowered to authorize the conduit to send the money to the legislative campaigns that received the donations.

"In order to go easy on these donors the board had to overlook its own policy, ignore a state appeals court ruling and pretend not to notice that at least in one case the ploy they use to get a donor under the legal limit pushes her husband over the limit," McCabe said.

He added that the board’s actions are another illustration of why Senate Bill 11, which reforms the structure of the Elections Board and Ethics Board, needs to be enacted.

"The Elections Board is made up of the appointees of people who want to keep their big donors happy. It is a classic example of the fox guarding the chicken coop," McCabe said.

The board is comprised of political appointees chosen by the Democratic and Republican leaders in the Legislature, the governor, Supreme Court chief justice and the state Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties, most of whom benefited from large individual donations made by the accused violators during the election year.

FINES LEVIED ON INDIVIDUALS ACCUSED OF
VIOLATING THE ANNUAL $10,000 CONTRIBUTION LIMIT IN 2002

NAME LOCATION EMPLOYER TOTAL 2002
CONTRIBUTIONS(1)
POTENTIAL
FINE(2)
ACTUAL FINES
Daniel McKeithan Jr. Milwaukee Tamarack Petroleum $25,600.00 $47,300 $1,660
Harvey Hammond Jr. Mequon HNTB Corp. $18,500.00 $26,000 $950
James Connelly Milwaukee Foley & Lardner $17,500.00 $23,000 $250
Bryce Styza Chenequa Harmony Homes $17,350.00 $22,550 $0
Jere Fabick Oconomowoc Fabco Equipment $17,345.69 $22,537 $834
Paul Gehl Hilbert Lunda Construction $17,050.00 $21,650 $0
Thomas Radtke Winneconne Radtke Contractors $15,000.00 $15,500 $600
Richard Blomquist Milwaukee Blomquist Benefits Consulting $14,900.00 $15,200 $0
Carlene Ziegler Mequon Artisan Partners Limited $14,000.00 $12,500 $500
D Edward Bolton Milwaukee Bolton Corp. $13,100.00 $9,800 $410
Grant Nelson Prescott Retired $12,500.00 $8,000 $0
William Kennedy Janesville Rock Road Companies $12,245.69 $7,237 $324
Donald Layden Jr. Milwaukee NuEdge Systems $12,100.00 $6,800 $0
Keith Mardak Milwaukee Hal Leonard Publishing Corp. $12,000.00 $6,500 $250
Herbert Kohler Jr. Kohler Kohler Co. $12,000.00 $6,500 $300
Michael White River Hills Rite Hite Corp. $11,750.00 $5,750 $0
Jack Waterman Wisconsin Dells Great Wolf Lodge $11,650.00 $5,450 $265
Diane Hendricks Janesville ABC Supply Co. $11,500.00 $5,000 $0
Karl Rajani Greendale Genesis Health Care USA $11,050.00 $3,650 $205
James Coburn Whitewater Coburn Co. $11,000.00 $3,500 $0
Carol Hanson(3) Delafield Homemaker $11,000.00 $7,000 $0
Mary Kelly Madison Homemaker $11,000.00 $3,500 $0
George Prescott West Bend Prescott’s Supermarkets Inc. $10,950.00 $3,350 $0
Robert Starshak Fox Point Advanced Health Care $10,900.00 $3,200 $190
James F. Miller Appleton Retired $10,500.00 $2,000 $170
Alexander Alcocer Lake Geneva Mann Brothers Construction $10,500.00 $2,000 $0
Daniel Bader Milwaukee Helen Bader Foundation $10,500.00 $2,000 $0
Yogi Bhardwaj Wadsworth, IL National Petroleum Inc. $10,500.00 $2,000 $150
John Brogan Green Bay Wisconsin Converting Co. $10,500.00 $2,000 $0
John MacDonough Chenequa Retired $10,500.00 $2,000 $0
Ralph C. Stayer Fond du Lac Johnsonville Sausage $10,500.00 $2,000 $0
Joseph Madrigrano Jr. Kenosha CJW Distributors/Madrigrano, Zievers et al $10,450.00 $1,850 $0
John Bergstrom Neenah Bergstrom Automotive $10,382.19 $1,647 $138
Lucille Rosenberg Milwaukee Sinai Samaritan Medical Center $10,350.00 $1,550 $135
Randall Knox Jefferson WD Hoard & Sons $10,300.00 $1,400 $0
Ronald Fedler Dodgeville Gold Leaf Development $10,250.00 $1,250 $0
Vishal Lal Greenfield Advanced Pain Management Group $10,250.00 $1,250 $0
Mary Waterman Wisconsin Dells Great Wolf Lodge $10,200.00 $1,100 $120
Susan Mitchell Whitefish Bay American Education Reform Council $10,100.00 $800 $110
TOTAL CONTRIBUTOR FINES $ 316,321 $ 7,661
 
NAME LOCATION EMPLOYER TOTAL 2002
CONTRIBUTIONS(1)
POTENTIAL
FINE(2)
ACTUAL
FINES
Scott McCallum Madison Candidate for Governor (4)  $500  $100
 
TOTAL CONTRIBUTOR AND CANDIDATE FINES $316,821 $7,761

(1) Some totals may be higher than the amounts cited in WDC’s original complaints because some individuals admitted making a greater number of contributions in 2002 than those uncovered by WDC.

 (2) Totals represent allowable fines under Chapter 11.60(1) and 11.60(3), which call for civil fines of up to $500 per violation of Chapter 11 and triple the portion of the contribution that was illegally contributed.

 (3) Contributor accused of two Chapter 11 violations with civil fines of $500 each and triple the portion of the contribution that was illegally contributed.

 (4) McCallum’s fine results from $11,000 worth of contributions he accepted in 2002 from contributor Carol Hanson, and failing to return the excess $1,000 until late May, 2003 after WDC filed a complaint against him.