Taxpayers Fleeced as Big Campaign Donors Get Sweetheart Privatization Deal
State pays $165,000 for job previously done by $11-an-hour state worker; Doyle top recipient of HNTB Corp. donations
August 18, 2004
Madison - Top executives of the company the state is paying nearly $80 an hour to maintain a road sign inventory after eliminating the job of a state employee who did the work for a fraction of that amount have made over $140,000 in campaign donations to Wisconsin politicians in the past decade but kicked their giving into high gear three years ago, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has found.
Employees of HNTB Corp. made contributions averaging a total of $3,648 a year from 1993 to 2000, most of it going to former Governor Tommy Thompson. But executives of the firm from 12 different states got heavily involved in the 2002 race for governor, making $29,968 in donations in 2001 and $67,848 in 2002. The company continued making donations after the election, giving $13,375 in 2003.
HNTB carefully hedged its bets in the 2002 race for governor, giving to four major-party candidates - Republican Scott McCallum and Democrats Jim Doyle, Tom Barrett and Kathleen Falk. The top recipient of contributions from HNTB is Governor Doyle, who received $46,275 from employees of the company through the end of 2003. A preliminary review of Doyle’s campaign finance report covering the first half of 2004 shows the governor received two more contributions totaling $1,000 from HNTB executives during the period.
Of the $140,374 in donations from HNTB employees from 1993 through the end of 2003 (see table below), 69 percent went to Democrats and 31 percent went to Republicans. HNTB employees located in Wisconsin gave $76,274 or 54 percent of the donations, while company employees from outside of Wisconsin gave $64,100 or 46 percent of the total. Out-of-state contributions came from Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, Kansas, Virginia, Missouri, Michigan, Washington, Florida, Texas and Indiana.
In addition to their contributions to candidates for governor, company executives have made targeted donations to legislative leaders such as Assembly Speaker John Gard and Senate Majority Leader Mary Panzer, as well as convicted ex-senator Gary George and indicted current and former lawmakers Chuck Chvala, Scott Jensen, Brian Burke and Steve Foti.
One HNTB executive, Harvey Hammond Jr. of Mequon, gave so generously in 2002 that he exceeded the state’s $10,000 limit on campaign contributions and was fined by the state Elections Board in July 2003. According to a formal complaint filed by the Democracy Campaign that triggered the enforcement action, Hammond made $18,500 in contributions to state candidates in 2002. Under Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws, he could have been fined as much as $26,000 but the Elections Board settled on a $950 fine.
Hammond is a top Doyle donor, giving the governor $2,000 in January 2003 after making a $2,000 donation in September 2002. He also made two contributions in 2002 to Doyle’s opponent, former Governor Scott McCallum, totaling $7,500.
Hammond’s first donation to Doyle was one of 11 contributions from HNTB executives from seven different states made on the same day - September 4, 2002 - and these marked the first campaign donations from HNTB employees to Doyle despite the fact Doyle has been a fixture on Wisconsin’s political scene for more than a decade, having served three terms as state attorney general starting in 1990.
"HNTB has been making campaign contributions in Wisconsin since at least 1992 but the company wasn’t interested in Jim Doyle until it became clear to them he stood a good chance of becoming governor," WDC executive director Mike McCabe said.
Other top HNTB donors to Doyle include Jamie Hammond of Mequon; Kenneth Graham of Delafield; Ed McSpedon of West Hills, California; Charles O'Reilly of Woburn, Massachusetts; and Paul Yarossi of Ringwood, New Jersey. Each gave Doyle $5,000 in October 2002.
HNTB was later given a $164,692 contract to keep track of signs on state roads. The state contracted out work previously done by a temporary state employee making $11.38 an hour. Using a Department of Transportation budget formula, it is estimated that the total cost to taxpayers of paying a permanent state employee with full benefits to do the work is about $51,700.
"This is just the latest example of how taxpayers pay dearly for the way election campaigns are financed in Wisconsin," McCabe said. "As long as we have donor-owned elections instead of voter-owned elections, this is what we can expect."
Last year, the Democracy Campaign released a series of reports that put a price tag on the political favors special interests get in the form of tax breaks, pork barrel spending projects and lucrative state contracts. WDC identified dozens of perks worth $5.2 billion a year, or $1,358 per taxpayer annually.
|Thompson, Tommy G||R||$21,695.00|
|Christenson, George L||D||$2,000.00|
|Jensen, Scott R||R||$732.00|
|Nelson, Lisa B||R||$150.00|
|Ament, Christopher T||D||$100.00|