Another Campaign Coincidence

There’s no connection. It’s all a coincidence. Another Campaign Coincidence

by Mike McCabe, Executive Director

June 19, 2002

There’s no connection. It’s all a coincidence.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, recently raised questions about government grants charitable groups received from Attorney General Jim Doyle.

Twelve groups received grants. Doyle personally picked five of the groups for grants rather than rely on the recommendations of a nine-member advisory panel to distribute Wisconsin’s share of an antitrust settlement in a price fixing case against six vitamin manufacturers. There was no request for proposals, so other charitable organizations were not given the opportunity to compete for the grants.

Individuals connected to at least six of the 12 groups contributed to Doyle’s campaign for governor shortly before or just after the grants were announced. The donations were as large as $10,000. At least four of the donors had no previous history of contributions to Doyle or any other state candidate for that matter.

We said there is an appearance that government grants were being traded for campaign donations and called for an investigation.

Doyle’s camp responded there is "absolutely no connection" between the grants and the campaign donations.

Where have I heard that before?

Lawmakers overruled the Department of Natural Resources and included a special exemption in the state budget allowing an Arcadia furniture maker to expand its plant on wetlands. The exemption for Ashley Furniture was challenged in court and was ruled unconstitutional. Undeterred by the court ruling, legislators put a new version of the wetland exemption in the budget repair bill now being hammered out.

Executives of Ashley Furniture gave $68,000 to legislative and gubernatorial campaigns, including $10,000 to Governor Scott McCallum a week after the court ruling. Both the donors and recipients all say there is no connection. It’s a coincidence.

It’s always a coincidence. There’s never a connection.

Executives of a Fond du Lac construction company gave former Governor Tommy Thompson $37,000 in campaign donations in a single day. The contributions came within two weeks of the company, C.D. Smith Construction, getting a no-bid contract to build a $29.5 million prison from the State Building Commission, which Thompson chaired. Everyone said there was no connection between the donations and the contract. It was a coincidence.

It’s always a coincidence. There is never a connection.

Gambling interests in New York City gave $5,000 in a single day to a key Senate Democrat who faced a tough re-election battle. Senate Democrats promptly reversed course and supported a change in state law they had previously opposed allowing private companies to buy out the annuities lottery winners receive for a cut of the winnings.

The recipient of the donations, then-Senator Alice Clausing, and individuals connected with the New York-based Peoples Lottery Foundation that benefited from the law change all said there was no connection. It was a coincidence.

It’s always a coincidence. There is never a connection.

A Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis of the current state budget identified over three dozen special interest tax breaks, pork barrel spending projects and other policy favors worth $819 million that found their way into the budget at one point of the process or another. This is the same budget that now has a $1 billion-plus deficit.

The $819 million worth of budget favors happened to directly benefit special interests that gave lawmakers over $3 million in campaign contributions while budget decisions were being made.

Another coincidence.

It is always a coincidence. There is never a connection.