Big Walker Donor Convicted and Sentenced

In this update: 1. Railroad executive convicted of money laundering, gets probation 2. Voter guide for summer elections 3. 65,000 square miles surrounded by sanity Big Walker Donor Convicted and Sentenced

Email date: 7/8/11

In this update:
1. Railroad executive convicted of money laundering, gets probation
2. Voter guide for summer elections
3. 65,000 square miles surrounded by sanity

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Railroad executive convicted of money laundering, gets probation
A day after the Democracy Campaign identified a new batch of donors who appear to have broken state campaign finance laws, a major donor first flagged by WDC back in April 2010 for making illegal contributions was convicted in a Washington County court and sentenced to probation and community service. Wisconsin & Southern Railroad president and chief executive officer William Gardner pleaded guilty to two felonies for exceeding campaign contribution limits in support of Governor Scott Walker’s campaign and laundering additional donations through company employees and associates by giving them company or personal funds so they could make contributions on his behalf.

On the same day Gardner was criminally charged in April of this year, Governor Walker announced more than $25 million in new state rail subsidies, with over half the money going to Gardner’s company.

A Big Money Blog posted Wednesday describes an eerily similar chain of events that just unfolded. One of the donors we accused this week of making excessive campaign donations – Walker’s campaign identifies him as the owner of trucking firm Schneider National – got a personal bill-signing as Governor Walker visited the company’s headquarters to put his name to legislation reducing the liability of truck drivers in negligence cases.

In interviews with a Green Bay TV station, the governor and a Schneider National attorney were all over the board in how they responded to the allegations of unlawful campaign donations. Walker first blamed computer software his campaign uses. Then he seemed to fault the state Government Accountability Board’s campaign finance reporting system. Schneider National’s lawyer initially pointed a finger at Walker’s campaign, claiming they must have counted one of the donations twice. Later he acknowledged the donations might have been a “mistake that will get corrected.”

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Voter guide for summer elections
The Democracy Campaign worked with the League of Women Voters and Common Cause to develop questions for a survey of candidates running in the senate recall elections as well as the special election in the Madison area’s 48th Assembly District. The resulting voter guide is available here. To follow the money in these races, go here.

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65,000 square miles surrounded by sanity
Our latest Big Money Blog offers some reflections on the madness that has befallen Wisconsin politics. And a cure for what ails our state.