New Appointee to Elections Commission was Subject of Ethics Complaint

September 25, 2017

Dean Knudson
Dean Knudson

A former Republican Assembly representative whom the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign accused of violating state campaign finance law was named Monday to the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

Dean Knudson, of Hudson, who served in the Assembly from 2011 through last year, was appointed to the commission by GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Knudson chose not to run for reelection in 2016.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign accused Knudson in a 2016 complaint to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission of violating state campaign finance laws by forming an express advocacy political action committee (PAC) called the Wisconsin Liberty Fund. The Democracy Campaign complaint, which was later dismissed, contended that Knudson violated the law by operating a PAC and a candidate campaign committee at the same while he was in office.

The Elections Commission, along with a new Ethics Commission, was created in legislation approved in 2015 by the GOP-controlled legislature and Republican Gov. Scott Walker. The partisan panels replaced Wisconsin’s nationally recognized nonpartisan Government Accountability Board.

Four members on each commission are chosen by Democratic and Republican legislative leaders, and two members on each panel are appointed by the governor, subject to Senate approval. The appointees serve five-year terms.

Knudson replaces former Elections Commission member Steve King, who resigned last month after being appointed by President Donald Trump as U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic.

Knudson and his wife, Joy, contributed about $3,200 since January 2010, all to GOP legislative and statewide candidates. In addition to his personal campaign contributions, Knudson’s candidate campaign committee contributed about $650 to two GOP Assembly candidates.

Knudson’s Wisconsin Liberty Fund PAC has raised about $20,800 and spent about $60 since it was created.