Candidate for governor did not fully disclose info he has on more than $387,000 in special interest contributions
November 2, 2005
When Green, who has been in Congress since 1998, decided to run for governor he was allowed to use nearly $1.3 million in individual and political action committee contributions and interest income that he received from 2002 through 2004 as a congressman. This included $714,076 in small and large individual contributions.
A WDC review of the electronic and paper reports filed with the State Elections Board found 699 large individual contributions totaling $387,098 without any occupational and employment information. However, he had disclosed this information for most of those contributors on his federal campaign finance reports. This represents 72 percent of the 977 large individual contributions contained in the report. The value of the contributions with missing information represents 70 percent of the $550,301 in large individual contributions listed in the state report.
Federal rules require candidates to identify the occupation and employer of people who contribute more than $200 in a two-year period to a congressional candidate. State campaign finance law requires candidates to identify employment information on donors who give them more than $100 in a year. However, the Elections Board has not insisted on complete public disclosure for contributions transferred from a federal to a state campaign.
This disclosure requirement is important because it shows voters the special interests supporting the candidates, and the possible influence they wield over an officeholder’s votes on public policy. Wisconsin newspaper editorials have emphasized the importance of knowing who is giving campaign contributions to political candidates. That necessity could not have been made clearer than by recent reports about political contributions to Democratic Governor Jim Doyle and former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson by Adelman Travel Group executives around the time the company was awarded lucrative state contracts by both administrations.
The Elections Board’s current policy of not requiring full disclosure on these contributions is cheating the public’s right to know. It is yet another reason legislators and the governor should approve a proposed law, Senate Bill 1, which dissolves the Elections and Ethics boards to create a more politically independent regulatory agency with the teeth and resources to enforce state campaign finance laws.
WDC’s finding also contradicts a pledge by Green campaign manager Mark Graul in an October 23 Appleton Post-Crescent report about campaign spending where he broadly said: “We work very hard to make sure what we do is above board and people can take an honest look at how our campaign operates.”
WDC executive director Mike McCabe said the campaign has to do a better job on disclosure. “I don’t really think an open record is really open when half the information that is supposed to be disclosed is missing.”
In the spirit of being “above board,” McCabe called on the Green campaign to file by the end of November an amended campaign finance report that reveals the missing contributor information.
The loophole that allowed Green to convert federal contributions to use in a race for state office also allows him to collect more than $500,000 in PAC money than the other candidates for governor are allowed.
Green transferred $511,405 in PAC money he received as a congressman to his campaign for governor. However, those contributions do not count toward the $700,830 limit on total PAC contributions that he and the other candidates for governor may collect during the four-year election cycle, from 2003 through 2006.
If the PAC contributions he transferred from his federal to his state campaign account did count toward the limit, Green would be able to raise only $189,425 in additional PAC contributions between now and the end of 2006.
“Because Congressman Green was allowed by the Elections Board to use money he raised to run for Congress for his campaign for governor, he was given a green light to exceed the legal limit for special interest PAC donations for this state office by more than $500,000,” McCabe said.
The vast majority of the PAC money Green transferred from his federal account was large contributions from Washington D.C- area and other out-of-state special interests – about 84 percent, or $429,494. One of those contributions, for $2,000 on June 17, 2003, was from former Republican House majority leader Tom DeLay.
Green has been criticized for accepting several contributions totaling $28,845 since 1998 from PACs controlled by DeLay, who was recently indicted on criminal conspiracy and money laundering charges involving the 2002 Texas legislative elections.