Legislators, Gov Use State Budget To Milk
$2 Million From Special Interests
August 13, 2007
Madison - Wisconsin legislators and Democratic Governor Jim Doyle raised $2.05 million in campaign contributions during the first six months of 2007 by tapping special interests at extravagant golf outings and other fundraisers while spending and policy decisions were being made for the proposed 2007-09 state budget, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review shows.
The result is three widely different versions of the budget – from Doyle, majority Senate Democrats and majority Assembly Republicans. An eight-member committee of legislative leaders – four Democrats and four Republicans – is likely to take several weeks to craft a compromise budget that can pass both houses and go to Doyle whose veto power allows him to substantially change it.
But while the committee works on the budget, legislators are continuing to hold pricey $500 and $1,000 a head fundraisers to milk special interests, including an August 13 golf outing by Assembly Majority Leader Jeff Fitzgerald and his brother, Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. The Republican lawmakers are asking up to $3,000 per head for those who want to attend. A week later, the Assembly Democrats are planning an August 20 reception at the Pine Knoll Super Club in Lake Mills that demands up to $1,000 per head.
Doyle, who raised and spent a record $10.6 million to win reelection last November, reeled in $527,684 during the first six months of 2007, just short of the $562,954 he snapped up in the first six months of 2003 after winning the governor’s office in 2002.
Among Doyle’s key fundraising events was his annual June golf outing that raked in $1,000 per person at the prized University Ridge course and featured cocktails and photos with Doyle.
Between January and June, legislators raised $1.52 million – more than they raised in past, comparable periods when a state budget was under consideration. The total, which includes personal campaign committees and four leadership committees, is 12 percent higher than the $1.36 million raised in the first six months of 2005 and 19 percent higher than the $1.28 million raised in the first half of 2003.
The four legislative campaign committees used by legislative leaders to raise money from lobbyists and other special interests to help their colleagues at election time raised $485,201, or 32 percent, of the $1.52 million raised by legislators.
Proof that money also flows to power in the Legislature shows in the fundraising by the four legislative caucuses. The Senate Democrats, who captured an 18-15 majority over Republicans in last November’s elections, raised the most money – $451,311 – during the first six months of 2007. They were followed by the Assembly Republicans who hold a 52-47 majority and raised $419,825.
Top fundraisers among the Senate Democrats were three incumbents up for reelection in 2008 who are usually targeted by Republicans. Democrat Dave Hansen of Green Bay raised $58,132 and had $102,145 in his campaign account as of June 30. Hanson was followed by Democrats Robert Wirch of Kenosha and Roger Breske of Eland. Wirch raised $54,911 and had $71,710 in his campaign account and Breske raised $50,940 and had $62,842 in his campaign account.
Among the Senate Democrats’ key fundraisers was a February fundraiser at a Milwaukee yacht club that asked for contributions of up to $1,000 per person and a May 18 golf outing at the Grand Geneva Resort that cost from $700 to $3,000 per person.
The leading fundraiser among the Assembly Republicans was Speaker Mike Huebsch of Onalaska who raised $49,596 and had $30,853 in his campaign account. Huebsch determines the proposals that pass or fail in the Assembly. He was followed by Republicans Phil Montgomery of Green Bay and Steve Wieckert of Appleton. Montgomery, the sponsor of a controversial AT&T-backed proposal to change cable television marketing and regulations, raised $23,916 and had $11,496 in the bank. Wieckert raised $23,511 and had $29,167 in the bank as of June 30.
Senate Republicans raised $382,929 led by the top fundraiser in the Senate and the Legislature as a whole – Republican Alberta Darling of River Hills. She hauled in $130,048 in the first six months of 2007 and had $152,511 in her campaign account on June 30. Darling was followed by Senator Ted Kanavas of Brookfield who raised $44,791 and had $99,074 in his campaign account and Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau who raised $35,055 and had $17,662 in his campaign account.
Among the Republicans’ fundraisers was a May 2 state party fundraiser hosted by GOP legislative leaders at a prominent Washington D.C. lobbying firm and demanded up to $5,000 per person.
Assembly Democrats raised $270,372 led by Representative Pedro Colon of Milwaukee who took in $21,565 in the first six months of 2007 and had $25,265 in his campaign account as of June 30. He was followed by Representative Tom Nelson of Kaukauna and Assembly Minority Leader Jim Kreuser of Kenosha. Nelson accepted $15,697 in contributions and had $29,954 in his campaign account. Kreuser received $13,937 in contributions and had $49,181 in his campaign account.
Among the Assembly Democrats’ fundraisers was a June 11 event at a downtown Milwaukee French restaurant and another on February 12 that asked for up to $1,000 per person.
There were discrepancies between the electronic and paper versions of campaign finance reports, which are supposed to be identical, filed by two veteran legislators. Democratic Representative Jon Richards of Milwaukee reported raising $100 on his paper report filed with the State Elections Board but reported no contributions on his electronic report. Republican Representative Scott Gunderson of Waterford had a $206 spending difference between his electronic and paper reports.
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