Special Interests Lubricated Political Machinery as State Budget Took Shape

$1.9 million flowed in during budget process on heels of record giving in 2002

August 5, 2003

Madison - Special interests scrambled to get what they could from the state budget by contributing $1.28 million to legislators’ campaigns and leadership committees in the first half of 2003 after doling out a record amount of contributions in election year 2002, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows.

In addition to legislative fundraising, Democratic Governor Jim Doyle accepted more than $560,000 in campaign contributions while his proposed budget was in play and before he used his veto authority to finalize policy and spending changes that left several major special interest contributors virtually unscathed despite the state’s $3.2 billion deficit.

Contributions during the six-month period to legislators and state constitutional officers totaled $1,868,198.

The contributions accepted by legislators while they considered the 2003-05 budget are 46 percent higher than the $875,715 accepted by legislators in the first half of 1999 - the most recent six-month period following a race for governor and other statewide offices.

The contributions were about 20 percent less than the $1.6 million legislators accepted during the first six months of 2001 when legislators considered the last two-year budget.

The dip in legislative fundraising from two years ago is probably due to a combination of factors. It is likely even the pocketbooks of wealthy special interests were fatigued after 2002 when they spent $25 million on contributions and campaign ads for candidates for statewide office and the Legislature.

Other factors include a state budget that left a little less room for special interest pork due to the deficit and the indictments of four former legislative leaders and one current leader on campaign finance and ethics law violations. Many of those charges allege pay-to-play activity when the Legislature considered the 2001-03 state budget.

However, the newest batch of legislative leaders continued to use a fundraising playbook similar to their predecessors by accepting large amounts of special interest money while they were crafting the present state budget.

Three of the top five Senate fundraisers (see Table 1) - Republicans Theodore Kanavas, Robert Welch and Alberta Darling - are members of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee. The two top Senate fundraisers - Democrats Julie Lassa and Jeffrey Plale - drew special interest contributions because they were involved in special elections to win their seats.

In the Assembly, three of the top five fundraisers are Republican and Democratic legislative leaders who control the fate of the budget and other proposals in that house including Assembly Speaker John Gard, Majority Leader Steven Foti and Minority Leader James Kreuser.

Darling who is co-chair of the Finance Committee, Gard, Kanavas, Foti and Kreuser scheduled fundraisers between February and June when the budget was in their hands. Gard scheduled at least two fundraisers in April and in May - one in Minneapolis and the other at the home of a Janesville road builder within days of Gard’s announcement of a Republican budget proposal that called for $800 million more in spending for short- and long-term road building than Doyle’s proposal.

The four legislative campaign committees, which are controlled by legislative leaders and are used to help elect members in the four caucuses, accepted a total of $392,224 during the first six months of 2003 (see Table 2), which is 73 percent more than the $226,990 accepted in the first half of 2001.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has proposed a ban on campaign fundraising during the state budget process.

"Lawmakers should not be shaking down special interests for campaign donations, especially when they are in the process of making budget decisions that affect those interest groups. The practice creates a blatant conflict of interest for the lawmakers and a gravy train for wealthy donors," WDC executive director Mike McCabe said.

The list of those in each house with the top campaign balances as of June 30 is dominated by Republicans (see Table 3), including Senator Michael Ellis of Neenah who had a $204,097 cash balance. In the Assembly, former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen held $156,032 despite spending $102,500 of his contributions to defend himself on felony misconduct charges in the legislative caucus scandal.

For acomplete list of the amount raised and cash on hand for all legislators see Table 4 below.

Table 1 Table 2 Table 3 Table 4

Table 1
Total Raised By Constitutional Officers and Top Legislative Fund Raisers
Jan. 1, 2003 - June 30, 2003

Constitutional Officers State Senators State Representatives
Governor Jim Doyle $562,954 Jeffrey Plale (D) -
South Milwaukee
$98,720 John Gard (R) - Peshtigo $92,305
Lt. Governor
Barbara Lawton
$11,841 Julie Lassa (D) -
Stevens Point
$75,992 Lena Taylor (D) - Milwaukee $43,288
Attorney General
Peg Lautenschlager
$17,047 Theodore Kanavas (R) - Brookfield $59,588 Steven Foti (R) - Oconomowoc $20,339
Secretary of State
Doug La Follette
$24 Robert Welch (R) - Redgranite $43,371 James Kreuser (D) - Kenosha $16,734
State Treasurer Jack Voight $100 Alberta Darling (R) - River Hills $43,146 Terri McCormick (R) - Appleton $14,810

Table 2
Money Raised by Leadership Committees
Jan. 1, 2003 - June 30, 2003

Legislative Campaign Committee From Individuals From PACs Other Income Total
Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee $71,034 $43,001 $4,800 $118,835
Republican Assembly Campaign Committee $28,630 $85,050 $5 $113,685
Committee to Elect a Republican Senate $23,085 $63,000 $3 $86,088
State Senate Democratic Committee $4,220 $69,150 $246 $73,616

Table 3
Top War Chests as of June 30, 2003

Constitutional Officers State Senators State Representatives
Governor Jim Doyle $248,911 Michael Ellis R - Neenah $204,097 Scott Jensen (R) - Waukesha $156,032
Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton $7,484 Robert Welch (R) - Redgranite $102,107 Spencer Black (D) - Madison $135,148
Attorney General
Peg Lautenschlager
$13,802 Alberta Darling (R) -
River Hills
$74,512 Sheldon Wasserman (D) - Milwaukee $127,573
Secretary of State
Doug La Follette
$11,100 Dale Schultz (R) -
Richland Center
$56,797 Robin Kreibich (R) - Eau Claire $80,651
State Treasurer Jack Voight $47,563 Russ Decker (D) - Schofield $55,737 John Gard (R) - Peshtigo $62,225

Table 4
Fund-Raising by State Office Holders in 2003

Candidate Party Office Total Raised Cash on hand
6/30/03
Doyle, Jim Dem Governor $562,954 $248,911
Plale, Jeffrey Dem S07 $98,720 $1,907
Gard, John Rep A89 $92,305 $62,225
Lassa, Julie Dem S24 $75,992 $21,357
Kanavas, Theodore J Rep S33 $59,588 $8,086
Welch, Robert Rep S14 $43,371 $102,107
Taylor, Lena C Dem A18 $43,288 $2,214
Darling, Alberta Rep S08 $43,146 $74,512
George, Gary Dem S06 $29,755 $2,288
Wirch, Robert Dem S22 $24,608 $41,405
Honadel, Mark Rep A21 $22,118 $3,190
Leibham, Joseph Rep S09 $21,310 $8,492
Foti, Steven Rep A38 $20,339 $298
Lautenschlager, Peg Dem Attorney General $17,047 $13,802
Kreuser, James Dem A64 $16,734 $37,703
McCormick, Terri Rep A56 $14,810 $17,057
Richards, Jon Dem A19 $12,846.81 $25,992
Panzer, Mary* Rep S20 $12,232 $23,259
Lawton, Barbara Dem Lieutenant Governor $11,841 $7,484
Hansen, Dave Dem S30 $11,725 $33,140
Brown, Ronald W Rep S31 $11,669 $2,679
Molepske, Louis John Jr Dem A71 $11,430 $2,716
Weber, Becky Rep A05 $10,816 $10,510
Gielow, Curtis C Rep A23 $10,750 $11,055
Gundrum, Mark Rep A84 $9,815 $26,176
Erpenbach, Jon Dem S27 $9,770 $54,798
Reynolds, Tom Rep S05 $9,378 $3,273
Miller, Mark Dem A48 $8,811 $12,144
Nischke, Ann M Rep A97 $7,487 $1,009
Van Roy, Karl Rep A90 $7,485 $7,403
Moore, Gwendolynne Dem S04 $7,030 $24,973
Fitzgerald, Jeff Rep A39 $6,625 $14,439
Hines, JA Rep A42 $6,365 $7,860
Breske, Roger Dem S12 $6,335 $36,143
Kreibich, Robin Rep A93 $6,235 $80,651
Williams, Mary Rep A87 $6,065 $12,552
Lazich, Mary Rep S28 $5,463 $42,986
Towns, Debi Rep A43 $5,245 $9,987
Zien, David Rep S23 $4,906 $5,098
Wood, Jeffrey S Rep A67 $4,570 $4,426
Pettis, Mark Rep A28 $4,230 $1,131
Pocan, Mark Dem A78 $3,813 $6,474
Stepp, Cathy Rep S21 $3,659 $7,228
Cullen, David Dem A13 $3,531 $14,265
Petrowski, Jerry Rep A86 $3,272 $1,028
Freese, Stephen Rep A51 $3,260 $2,136
Musser, Terry** Rep A92 $3,085 $6,532
Staskunas, Tony* Dem A15 $3,075 $2,891
Harsdorf, Sheila Rep S10 $3,021 $21,724
Pope-Roberts, Sondy* Dem A79 $2,911 $5,468
Van Akkeren, Terry Dem A26 $2,785 $3,354
Kaufert, Dean Rep A55 $2,600 $53,481
Young, Leon Dem A16 $2,450 $819
Townsend, John Rep A52 $2,395 $5,671
Vukmir, Leah* Rep A14 $2,200 $2,616
Jensen, Scott R Rep A98 $2,079 $156,032
Wasserman, Sheldon* Dem A22 $1,870 $127,573
Roessler, Carol Rep S18 $1,814 $10,179
Carpenter, Tim Dem S03 $1,775 $678
Schooff, Dan Dem A45 $1,750 $14,485
Lothian, Thomas A Rep A32 $1,700 $1,877
Sherman, Gary Dem A74 $1,675 $23,855
Robson, Judith Dem S15 $1,659 $26,413
Krug, Shirley Dem A12 $1,631 $53,028
Hahn, Eugene Rep A47 $1,450 $6,873
Zepnick, Josh Dem A09 $1,410 $3
Loeffelholz, Gabe Rep A49 $1,400 $10,786
Coggs, Spencer* Dem A17 $1,383 $5,956
Montgomery, Phil Rep A04 $1,311 $1,180
Schultz, Dale Rep S17 $1,257 $56,797
Seratti, Lorraine* Rep A36 $1,200 $4,174
Turner, Robert Dem A61 $1,100 $164
Stone, Jeff Rep A82 $1,040 $29,745
Huebsch, Michael* Rep A94 $900 $267
Vruwink, Amy Sue* Dem A70 $850 $2,077
Wieckert, Steve Rep A57 $683 $51,108
Grothman, Glenn Rep A58 $636 $48,247
Ladwig, Bonnie Rep A63 $609 $38,518
Schneider, Marlin Dem A72 $604 $16,281
Black, Spencer Dem A77 $521 $135,148
Decker, Russ Dem S29 $517 $55,737
Ellis, Michael Rep S19 $500 $204,097
Friske, Donald R Rep A35 $450 $12,116
Gunderson, Scott Rep A83 $400 $15,786
Chvala, Chuck Dem S16 $395 $36,857
Shilling, Jennifer Dem A95 $362 $6,545
Lasee, Alan Rep S01 $347 $6,203
Huber, Greg Dem A85 $345 $32,833
Jauch, Robert Dem S25 $310 $24,962
Cowles, Robert Rep S02 $300 $8,478
Krawczyk, Judy Rep A88 $300 $12,935
Lasee, Frank Rep A02 $300 $15,038
Meyer, Dan Rep A34 $300 $11,223
Vrakas, Daniel Rep A33 $262 $24,998
Burmaster, Elizabeth NP School Superintendent $250 $340
Plouff, Joe Dem A29 $180 $13,638
Fitzgerald, Scott Rep S13 $171 $413
Gronemus, Barbara* Dem A91 $125 $4,917
Gottlieb, Mark Rep A60 $124 $826
Kedzie, Neal Rep S11 $100 $24,281
LeMahieu, Daniel R Rep A59 $100 $1,030
Voight, Jack Rep Treasurer $100 $47,563
Lehman, John Dem A62 $87 $12,405
Bies, Garey D Rep A01 $70 $15,731
Balow, Larry Dem A68 $50 $3,475
Meyer, Mark Dem S32 $50 $2,843
Rhoades, Kitty Rep A30 $50 $42,643
Krusick, Peggy Dem A07 $31 $24,987
Johnsrud, DuWayne Rep A96 $25 $136
Ott, Alvin Rep A03 $25 $11,911
LaFollette, Douglas Dem Secretary of State $24 $11,100
Ainsworth, John Rep A06 $0 $8,996
Albers, Sheryl* Rep A50 $0 $33,595
Berceau, Terese Dem A76 $0 $9,419
Boyle, Frank Dem A73 $0 $6,783
Hebl, Tom Dem A46 $0 $4,614
Hundertmark, Jean Rep A40 $0 $11,639
Jeskewitz, Suzanne Rep A24 $0 $25,750
Kerkman, Samantha Rep A66 $0 $11,366
Kestell, Steve Rep A27 $0 $14,229
Lehman, Michael Rep A99 $0 $4,738
Morris, Johnnie* Dem A11 $0 $653
Nass, Stephen L Rep A31 $0 $55,684
Olsen, Luther Rep A41 $0 $20,194
Owens, Carol Rep A53 $0 $2,145
Powers, Mike Rep A80 $0 $3,150
Risser, Fred Dem S26 $0 $912
Sinicki, Christine Dem A20 $0 $1,215
Steinbrink, John Dem A65 $0 $24,206
Suder, Scott* Rep A69 $0 $975
Travis, David Dem A81 $0 $759
Underheim, Gregg Rep A54 $0 $880
Ward, David Rep A37 $0 $23,146
Williams, Annette Polly Dem A10 $0 $2,344
Wood, Wayne Dem A44 $0 $1,640
Ziegelbauer, Bob Dem A25 $0 $0
Colon, Pedro** Dem A08 N/A N/A
Hubler, Mary*** Dem A75 N/A N/A

*Ending cash adjusted based on previous reports.
**Amount raised and ending cash adjusted.
***Not required to filed. Closing account to run for mayor of Milwaukee.
****Current report not yet available.