Many lawmakers get better marks, but most candidates for top political jobs
get average to poor report cards
May 13, 2002
Campaign finance laws require candidates to identify the occupation and employer of people who contribute more than $100. This information is important because it shows the public the special interests that are supporting and influencing candidates, which often goes a long way in explaining how elected officials vote on public policy.
The WDC analyzed the campaign reports of 109 candidates and incumbents for the legislature and three statewide offices and found that 47 failed to properly report legally required information for 348 large individual contributions worth $192,206 (Table 1).
Topping the list of those who received an "F" was Republican Gov. Scott McCallum, whose campaign was responsible for 109, or 30 percent, of all the inadequately disclosed contributions valued at $80,852, or 42 percent of the value of all of the contributions with incomplete contributor information. McCallum and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Falk were among 13 candidates who received an "F" for shabby reporting. Seven others received a "D" or a "D-".
Only one candidate for statewide office received an "A" for perfect reporting - Republican Vince Biskupic (Table 2). He was among 62 candidates or officeholders who received an "A". Nine candidates or officeholders received an "A-" for minor omissions, including gubernatorial candidate Gary George and lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Kevin Shibilski, both Democrats.
Overall, Republicans racked up slightly more "F’s" than Democrats - eight versus seven - but they had the lion’s share of "A" grades - 43 versus 19.
The Democracy Campaign issued its grades based on the number, value and contribution history of inadequately identified contributions relative to the total number of contributions over $100. WDC did not include donations by contributors that failed to identify an employer because they were identified as retired, homemaker, volunteer or student. It also did not include instances where the listed occupation clearly identified the employer, such as legislative assistant, legislator or farmer.
The latest slate of grades showed some improvement from grades issued by WDC last November for poor employment and occupational data reporting in campaign finance reports for the first six months of 2001. For instance:
- The total number and value of inadequately reported contributions declined from 464 contributions worth $316,879 in reports for the first six months of the year to 348 worth $192,206 in reports for the last six months of 2001.
- The number of candidates and incumbents receiving grades increased from 79 to 109, but the number receiving an "F" declined from 18 to 13 and the number who received an "A" or an "A-" increased from 44 to 71.
- Some candidates who received an "F" on their first reports showed strong improvement in the latest reports. They include Republican Senators Alberta Darling and Ted Kanavas; Democratic Senators Judith Robson and Shibilski; Republican Representatives Steve Foti and Judy Krawczyk; and Democratic Representatives Julie Lassa and Jon Richards.
"We clearly got their attention the last time we issued report cards," WDC executive director Mike McCabe said. "A number of lawmakers who received failing grades last time cleaned up their act and got high marks this time. Grading them on their compliance with the disclosure law gets them to follow the rules in a way the Elections Board has never been able to."
However, WDC remains concerned about the amount and nature of the shabbily reported contributions, particularly since candidates and incumbents in the state’s top three constitutional offices are responsible for most of them. For instance:
- The number of candidates with incomplete occupation-employment information in their reports increased from three dozen in first half of 2001 to 47 in the second half.
- The number and value of McCallum’s poorly reported contributions declined from 160 worth $141,406 to 109 worth $80,852; however the proportion of poorly reported contributions to his total number of contributions over $100 increased. The vast majority of the incomplete contributions - 102 - listed neither an employer nor an occupation. One $5,000 contributor, Vishal Lal, listed no employer and an occupation of "manager."
- Reports for many candidates and officeholders continued to lack required information for some of their largest contributors. Doyle accepted contributions of $4,000 and $6,000 from individuals identified only as "service station operator." Barrett accepted at least $7,500 from similar interests but did not identify their occupation or employer. One of Barrett’s largest contributors, William Mansfield, who contributed $2,500, listed his occupation as "self."
- Some unidentified sources of large contributions were repeat contributors to those very campaigns. For instance, Falk accepted $10,000 from Pamela Oatis of Dundee, Michigan who was identified only as a "pediatrician."
# OF CONTRIBUTIONS
WITH MISSING INFO
|Jensen, Scott R||R||5||1,025|
|Kanavas, Theodore J.||R||1||1,000|
|Statewide Officeholders and Candidates||Party||Office||
|James Doyle||D||Atty Gen., Governor Candidate||F||C|
|Tom Barrett||D||Governor Candidate||F||C|
|Gary George||D||Senator, Governor Candidate||B||A-|
|Kathleen Falk||D||Governor Candidate||na||F|
|Ed Thompson||L||Governor Candidate||na||C|
|Margaret Farrow||R||Lt. Governor||A||C|
|Kevin Shibilski||D||Senator, Lt. Governor Candidate||F||A-|
|Peg Lautenschlager||D||Atty. Gen. Candidate||F||F|
|Vince Biskupic||R||Atty. Gen. Candidate||na||A|
|Bies, Gary D.||R||A01||A||A|
|Friske, Donald R.||R||A35||A||A|
|Henney, Tim (candidate)||D||A42||na||B|
|Jensen, Scott R.||R||A32||B||B|
|La Fave, John||D||A23||F||na|
|Nass, Stephen L.||R||A31||A||A|
"na" - Applies to individuals who did not file a report during the time period because they were not candidates, or they did not have any contributions of more than $100 for which occupation and employer data were required.
Officeholders who are not listed did not raise any contributions of more than $100 in either period.