WDC Files Complaints Against Governor, Assembly Leader for Illegal Donations

Doyle, Gard Face $123,000 in Fines for Disclosure Violations

October 14, 2003

Madison - Democratic Governor James Doyle and Republican Assembly Speaker John Gard violated state campaign finance laws by repeatedly failing to fully disclose the source of nearly $115,000 in campaign contributions, according to complaints filed today by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

The complaints and 216 pages of accompanying evidence filed with the state Elections Board show the veteran politicians violated the state campaign finance disclosure law requiring candidates to identify the occupation and employer of contributors who give a candidate more than $100 in a year. The law allows the board to levy civil fines of up to $500 per violation.

Employment and occupational information is an essential part of campaign finance disclosure because it identifies the special interests behind the contributions that influence elected officials.

A WDC analysis of campaign finance reports filed by the candidates with the board show that Doyle failed to identify the special interests behind 207 contributions worth $104,278 to his campaign between August 27, 2002 and June 30, 2003. Among these donations were 31 contributions of $1,000 or more, including three donations of $5,000. (See table.)

Under the law, the Elections Board could levy up to $103,500 in civil forfeitures on Doyle’s campaign.

Gard failed to disclose the required occupational and employment information for 39 contributions worth $10,512 to his campaign during the same time period. Among the donors whose interests were not properly identified in Gard’s reports were five contributors who gave him the maximum contribution of $500 for an Assembly candidate. (See table.)

The Elections Board could impose up to $19,500 in forfeitures on Gard’s campaign.

WDC filed complaints against Gard and Doyle because they were the worst offenders among 60 current officeholders who had missing information on their reports involving a total of 459 contributions worth $183,963. Doyle and Gard accounted for 62 percent of the dollar value of the improperly disclosed contributions and 54 percent of the total number of donations with missing occupational and employment information.

In addition, Doyle and Gard have been persistent violators of the disclosure requirement who have received failing grades in past WDC reviews of campaign finance reports filed by candidates for statewide office and the Legislature for January 2001 through August 2002.

Doyle received an F for failing to disclose adequate employment-related data on $96,380 worth of contributions received in the first half of 2001. He received a C for $21,736 worth of poorly reported contributions in the last half of 2001 and a B for missing information on $43,800 worth of 2002 contributions accepted through late August. Gard’s previous grades were a B, an F and a C for missing information on contributions ranging from $800 to $1,650. The grades were based on the percentage of a candidate’s total large individual contributions that had missing information.

Gard and Doyle are veteran politicians who have filed dozens of these reports and should know better. Gard has been in the Assembly since 1987 and Doyle was attorney general from 1990 through 2002 before winning the governor’s office. State elected officials are required to file two of these reports in each non-election year and four campaign finance reports in an election year.

Another factor in the decision to file formal complaints is the state Elections Board’s ongoing refusal to take enforcement action against candidates in the past when their failure to comply with the disclosure law has been pointed out by the Democracy Campaign, WDC executive director Mike McCabe said.

The cause of the Elections Board’s unwillingness to enforce the law is its flawed structure, McCabe said, noting that the majority of board members are appointed by legislative leaders, the governor and the two major political parties. Board member Donald Goldberg of Milwaukee is an appointee of Governor Doyle. Gard appointed Patrick Hodan of Milwaukee to the board.

Not only should the Elections Board fine Doyle and Gard, it should order all candidates with improperly reported contributions to provide the missing information or return the money to the donors, McCabe said.

"These are illegal campaign contributions and the Elections Board is doing nothing to make sure candidates obey the law," he said. "The law they are ignoring is the most important part of campaign finance disclosure. Citizens have a right to know the interests behind big campaign donations, and the public is cheated out of this vital information when the law is not enforced."

Legislation pending consideration in the Senate - Senate Bill 11 - would combine the state Elections Board and Ethics Board under the direction of a more politically independent board with increased enforcement powers. SB 11 has received committee approval and awaits scheduling for a vote in the full Senate.

Tables of contributors for:

Governor DoyleAssembly Speaker Gard