Top State Politicians Earn Poor Marks for Shabby Disclosure

Three dozen state officeholders violated campaign finance laws by not adequately revealing the special interests behind nearly $317,000 worth of large individual campaign contributions they accepted during the first six months of 2001, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows. Top State Politicians Earn Poor Marks for Shabby Disclosure

McCallum, Doyle Get an “F” For Most Improperly Reported Contributions

November 5, 2001

Madison - Three dozen state officeholders violated campaign finance laws by not adequately revealing the special interests behind nearly $317,000 worth of large individual campaign contributions they accepted during the first six months of 2001, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows. 

State campaign finance laws require candidates to identify the occupation and employer of individual contributors who contribute more than $100. This information is important because it identifies for constituents the special interests who support candidates and who may wield influence over how elected officials vote on public policy.

"Too many of our elected officials are failing to follow the law," WDC executive director Mike McCabe said. "The information they are leaving off their reports is the heart and soul of meaningful disclosure. Without it, voters have no way of knowing the interests of those trying to influence our lawmakers." 

Among the top constitutional officers, candidates and legislators receiving an "F" are Republican Gov. Scott McCallum, whose campaign improperly reported 160 large individual contributions worth $141,406 and Democratic Attorney General James Doyle, whose campaign omitted required information on 81 large contributions worth $96,380. Democrats Tom Barrett, Sen. Kevin Shibilski, and Peg Lautenschlager, who are all candidates for statewide office, also received an "F." (Tables 1 & 2)  

Senators who received an "F" include Republican Alberta Darling of River Hills and Democrats Gwendolynne Moore of Milwaukee and Jon Erpenbach of Middleton. In the Assembly, the list includes Republicans Stephen Freese and Bonnie Ladwig and Democrats John La Fave and Jon Richards of Milwaukee. 

The grades were based on an individual’s total number and value of improperly reported contributions relative to their total large individual contributions and the number of those contributors who had made previous contributions to the individual. 

The elected officials failed to adequately report employment information on 464 large individual contributions worth $316,879. Of those, 301 contributions worth $220,189 lacked both occupational and employment information. The remaining 163 contributions worth $96,690 listed an occupation, such as attorney, volunteer, consultant, executive, theater owner and self-employed, but did not list the name of an employer or the business the contributor owned. The WDC did not include in this group donations by contributors that failed to identify an employer because their occupation was listed as retired, homemaker or student. It also did not include instances where the listed occupation clearly identified the employer, such as US rep., senator, lieutenant governor, member of Congress or farmer. 

Several elected officials - McCallum and Doyle in particular - did not reveal adequate information involving especially large contributions ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 as well as from individuals who previously contributed to their campaign and from well-known political insiders. 

"It’s not believable that candidates don’t know donors who give them $1,000 or $5,000 or $10,000, particularly when people they claim not to know anything about are loyal contributors or prominent political operatives. Whether it’s just plain sloppiness or intentional concealment, there’s no excuse for not following the disclosure laws," McCabe said. 

Some examples include: 

  • McCallum failed to identify occupational/employer data on more than $15,000 worth of donations from previous contributors or their family members, including $5,000 from Appleton resident Ellen M. Rossmeissl whose husband is an executive with the Boldt Group, a construction company, and $3,000 from Karen Troupis, an attorney whose husband, Jim, was a top McCallum transition adviser when he became governor.
  • McCallum did not disclose information about two $10,000 contributions from Middleton resident Jennifer Rupcich and Mequon resident Carlene Ziegler. He also accepted several contributions of $5,000, $2,500 and $2,000 for which no employment information was disclosed, including a $2,500 contribution from former Gov. Tommy Thompson’s long-time fundraiser Phil Prange.
  • Doyle had 26 contributions with missing information worth $35,660 from previous contributors, including $9,910 from Deanna Rosenberg of Midland Realty, $5,000 from Debbie Ames of Amsco Builders and $1,500 from Beverly Greenberg of Time Warner Cable. 
  • Doyle also did not list employer or occupational information about several other large contributors including $8,800 from Waunakee resident Thomas Bunbury, $5,000 from Madison resident Gil Rosenberg and $3,000 from Mequon resident Daniel Collins. 
  • Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett accepted a $10,000 contribution from Mary Jo Layden, who is simply listed on Barrett’s report as an "executive." Previous contributions show that her husband, Donald, is an M&I Bank executive.
  • Shibilski received two $500 contributions from contributors listed as "real estate developers." No employer was listed but a WDC review shows they work for Dominion Venture Group, which convinced Shibilski and other state lawmakers last summer to purchase their $75 million prison in Stanley. He also listed no occupation or employer for a $1,000 contribution from Fred Schierl, a previous contributor from Stevens Point who owns Schierl Inc.

Forty-two legislators and Lt. Gov. Margaret Farrow properly identified all of their large individual contributors during the first six months (Table 3). Topping the list were Democratic Sen. Brian Burke of Milwaukee who accepted $75,764 in large individual contributions, Sen. James Baumgart of Sheboygan who accepted $19,575 and Senate Majority Leader Charles Chvala of Madison who took in $6,275. 

WDC has done similar analyses of campaign reports since 1999. A comparison of the data shows that some lawmakers who ranked poorly in the past have substantially improved reporting employment and occupational information, including GOP Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen of Waukesha, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mary Panzer of West Bend and Democratic Sen. Mark Meyer of La Crosse. 

Jensen, who lacked information on about four dozen contributions worth about $10,000 in the past, got a "B" this time around. His report had 19 incomplete contributions worth $3,250. Panzer’s January-June 2000 campaign finance report failed to identify employment data for five contributions worth $3,000. This time, she gets a "C" for cutting it to two contributions worth $500. Meyer, who failed to identify information on eight contributions worth $2,514 in a report last year, gets an "A" this time for properly identifying both of his large individual contributions worth $450. 

"Calling attention to the problem of shoddy reporting in the past clearly has prompted many legislators to do a better job of revealing the interests of their donors," McCabe said. But he added the legislature’s record on disclosure still leaves much to be desired, noting that lawmakers still have not implemented the Citizens Right to Know law that requires electronic filing of campaign reports, giving citizens quicker and easier access to information about campaign donations. 

The law was passed in 1998 and set a July 1999 deadline for implementation. The cost of getting the new system up and running is $3.5 million, but lawmakers have not yet authorized funding for the project.

Contributions missing employer informationContributions with employer information
Contributors with no disclosed occuation/employer Contributors with no disclosed employer

January - June 2001

Scott McCallum R Governor F
Tom Barrett D Governor Candidate F
James Doyle D Atty. Gen., Governor Candidate F
Gary George D Senator, Governor Candidate B
Margaret Farrow R Lt. Gov. A
Kevin Shibilski D Senator, Lt. Gov. Candidate F
Brian Burke D Senator, Atty. Gen. Candidate A
Peg Lautenschlager D Atty. Gen. Candidate F
Elizabeth Burmaster Non-partisan School Superintendent B
Baumgart, James D S09 A
Breske, Roger D S12 A
Chvala, Chuck D S16 A
Darling, Alberta R S08 F
Decker, Russ D S29 A-
Ellis, Michael R S19 D
Erpenbach, Jon D S27 F
Fitzgerald, Scott R S13 A
Hansen, Dave D S30 A
Harsdorf, Sheila R S10 B
Kanavas, Ted R S33 D
Lazich, Mary R S28 A
Meyer, Mark D S32 A
Moen, Rodney D S31 A
Moore, Gwendolynne D S04 F
Panzer, Mary R S20 C
Plache, Kimberly D S21 B
Robson, Judith D S15 D
Rosenzweig, Peggy R S05 A
Schultz, Dale R S17 A
Welch, Robert R S14 B
Wirch, Robert D S22 B
Zien, David R S23 B
Albers, Sheryl R A50 A
Bies, Gary D. R A01 A
Duff, Marc R A98 A
Fitzgerald, Jeff R A39 A
Foti, Steven R A38 D
Freese, Stephen R A51 F
Friske, Donald R. R A35 A
Gard, John R A89 B
Gundrum, Mark R A84 A
Hahn, Eugene R A47 F
Hoven, Timothy R A60 A
Huber, Greg D A85 A
Huebsch, Michael R A94 A
Jensen, Scott R. R A32 B
Johnsrud, DuWayne R A96 A
Kaufert, Dean R A55 A
Krawczyk, Judy R A88 F
Kreuser, James D A64 A
La Fave, John D A23 F
Ladwig, Bonnie R A63 F
Lasee, Frank R A02 A
Lassa, Julie D A71 F
Leibham, Joseph R A26 F
Lippert, MaryAnn R A70 D
Loeffelholz, Gabe R A49 A
McCormick, Terri R A56 F
Meyer, Dan R A34 D
Montgomery, Phil R A04 A
Nass, Stephen L. R A31 A
Petrowski, Jerry R A86 A
Pettis, Mark R A28 A
Plale, Jeffrey D A21 A
Rhoades, Kitty R A30 A
Richards, Jon D A19 F
Riley, Antonio D A18 D
Schneider, Marlin D A72 A
Schooff, Dan D A45 A
Sherman, Gary D A74 F
Shilling, Jennifer D A95 A
Skindrud, Rick R A79 A
Starzyk, Samantha R A66 A
Townsend, John R A52 A
Travis, David D A81 A
Wade, Joan R A42 A
Walker, Scott R A14 A
Wasserman, Sheldon D A22 A
Wieckert, Steve R A57 A

January - June 2001

McCallum, Scott R 160 $141,406
Doyle, Jim D 81 $96,380
Barrett, Tom D 24 $18,575
Kanavas, Theodore J. R 20 $8,850
Shibilski, Kevin D 12 $6,903
Lautenschlager, Peg D 15 $6,250
Burmaster, Elizabeth Non-partisan 24 $5,862
Riley, Antonio D 11 $4,600
Plache, Kimberly D 13 $3,700
Jensen, Scott R R 19 $3,250
Robson, Judith D 13 $2,766
Darling, Alberta R 9 $2,400
George, Gary D 5 $2,100
Foti, Steven R 9 $1,780
Gard, John R 7 $1,650
Erpenbach, Jon D 5 $1,252
Richards, Jon D 3 $900
McCormick, Terri R 4 $850
Meyer, Dan R 2 $700
Decker, Russ D 3 $650
Freese, Stephen R 3 $600
Welch, Robert R 2 $550
Krawczyk, Judy R 3 $505
Leibham, Joseph R 2 $500
Sherman, Gary D 1 $500
Moore, Gwendolynne D 1 $500
Panzer, Mary R 2 $500
Ellis, Michael R 2 $450
Zien, David R 2 $450
Ladwig, Bonnie R 1 $250
Wirch, Robert D 1 $250
Hahn, Eugene R 1 $200
Harsdorf, Sheila R 1 $200
La Fave, John D 1 $200
Lippert, MaryAnn R 1 $200
Lassa, Julie D 1 $200
TOTAL 464 $316,879

January - June 2001

Candidate Party # OF CONTRIBUTIONS Amount
Sen. Brian Burke D 254 $75,764
Sen. James Baumgart D 22 $19,575
Sen. Charles Chvala D 19 $6,275
Rep. Mark Gundrum R 19 $4,050
Sen. Rodney Moen D 12 $3,325
Sen. Roger Breske D 15 $3,042
Rep. Rick Skindrud R 11 $2,294
Rep. Garey Bies R 9 $2,225
Rep. Kitty Rhoades R 9 $2,150
Rep. Steve Wieckert R 6 $2,150
Lt. Gov. Margaret Farrow R 4 $1,750
Rep. Jeffrey Plale D 6 $1,575
Rep. Timothy Hoven R 7 $1,494
Rep. Greg Huber D 5 $1,450
Rep. Mark Pettis R 3 $1,300
Rep. James Kreuser D 6 $1,150
Rep. Donald Friske R 6 $1,100
Rep. Jerry Petrowski R 6 $1,075
Sen. Mary Lazich R 2 $1,000
Rep. Franke Lasee R 3 $900
Rep. Phil Montgomery R 4 $850
Rep. Scott Walker R 4 $850
Sen. Dave Hansen D 5 $775
Rep. John Townsend R 4 $700
Rep. DuWayne Johnsrud R 2 $670
Rep. Sheryl Albers R 2 $650
Rep. Gabe Loeffelholz R 3 $615
Sen. Peggy Rosenzweig R 3 $600
Sen. Scott Fitzgerald R 4 $600
Rep. Sheldon Wasserman D 1 $500
Sen. Mark Meyer D 2 $450
Sen. Dale Schultz R 2 $400
Rep. Joan Wade R 2 $400
Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald R 2 $385
Rep. Marc Duff R 1 $250
Rep. Dean Kaufert R 1 $250
Rep. Stephen Nass R 1 $250
Rep. Michael Huebsch R 1 $250
Rep. Jennifer Shilling D 1 $250
Rep. Samantha Starzyk R 1 $200
Rep. Dave Travis D 1 $150
Rep. Marlin Schneider D 1 $150
Schooff, Dan D 1 $150
TOTAL 473 $143,989

Contributions missing employer informationContributions with employer information
Contributors with no disclosed occuation/employer Contributors with no disclosed employer