Lawmakers Spend More Time Fund Raising Than Working on State Budget

Democratic and Republican legislators scheduled events this summer and fall to get Wisconsin residents to part with some of their money. One is pitching airplane rides, several others hosted golf outings, two of them went on the road with a comedian, one group organized a zoo tour and the others threw theme parties ranging from a pig roast in a park to a reception at a yacht club. Lawmakers Spend More Time Fund Raising
Than Working on State Budget

September 23, 1999

Madison - (See table below.)

These events were among the nearly four dozen fund raisers scheduled around the state by Democratic and Republican legislators between June and the middle of October. Meanwhile, work on the proposed 1999-2001 state budget languished. To date, the new budget remains in limbo 85 days beyond its July 1 due date.

The lack of a new budget three months into the 1999-2001 biennium has now begun to concern local governments and school districts that depend on state aid payments to function. Legislative inaction on a new budget also threatens Wisconsin’s eligibility for millions in federal aid.

"The fact that legislators are fund raising at any point during budget consideration is a problem because it gives the appearance that special interests are contributing to influence the policy and funding decisions that affect all of us," said Gail Shea, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

"However, we find it particularly troublesome that legislative leaders and their colleagues have held many more fund raisers than they have meetings on a budget that has been past-due for months. Reaching a consensus on a piece of legislation that affects everyone they represent should be their only priority during this time. Hobnobbing with campaign contributors makes it look like these are the only people on their radar screens," Shea said.

From June through mid-October, legislative leaders, lawmakers and the state Republican Party have held or scheduled at least 47 fund raisers - or one every three days. The bulk of the events - 35 - were scheduled by Republicans, including 26 by Assembly GOP lawmakers, eight by Senate Republicans and one by the state Republican Party. The remaining 12 fund raisers were scheduled by seven Assembly Democrats and five Senate Democrats.

Slightly more than half of the events did not have a "suggested" or minimum contribution for attendants. However 23 had "suggested" or minimum contributions that ranged from $25 to $500 per person.

Most of the fund raisers were in the form of receptions and theme picnics or cookouts, like Republican Rep. Bonnie Ladwig’s "Western Roundup" fund raiser scheduled July 28, or the backyard barbecues scheduled by Democratic Rep. David Cullen of Milwaukee on June 28 and Republican Assembly Majority Leader Steve Foti of Oconomowoc on Aug. 29 .

Some of the fund raisers were more organized, formal or expensive to attend.

Four legislators - Rep. Luther Olsen, R-Berlin; Rep. Lee Meyerhofer, D-Kaukauna; Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau; and Welch - scheduled golf outings, as did the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee and the state Republican Party. The suggested contributions to the candidates at some of the events ranged from $40 to $500 per person, in addition to greens fees and dinner.

Other events that asked for a contribution of $100 or more per person included a reception at the Milwaukee Yacht Club for Republican Sen. Alberta Darling of River Hills on June 21; a fund raiser for Republican Rep. Mike Huebsch of La Crosse at the Red Circle Inn in Nashotah on June 2; and a reception and tour of the Milwaukee County Zoo sponsored by the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate on Sept. 16.

"We think it is more appropriate for these legislators to pressure their leadership to find a solution to the budget impasse, rather than organize events to raise money to advance their own political careers," Shea said.

June-October Fundraisers

June 2 Rep. Mike Huebsch R-La Crosse Red Circle Inn, Nashotah $100
June 6 Sen. Alice Clausing D- Menomonie Olde Towne Conference Center, Menomonie  
June 7 Rep. Kitty Rhoades R-Hudson Old Toll Bridge Docks, Hudson  
June 7 Sen. Scott Fitzgerald R-Juneau 6th Annual Golf Outing, Watertown Country Club $40-$75
June 14 Rep. Dan Schooff D-Beloit 2nd Annual Dan Schooff Snappers fund raiser $25
June 14 Sen. Brian Burke (Joint Finance co-chair) D-Milwaukee Tres Hermanos, Milwaukee  
June 18 Sen. Dale Schultz R-Richland Center Culver’s Headquarters, Prairie du Sac  
June 21 Rep. Dave Hutchinson R-Dykesville Breakfast fund raiser, Leathem Smith Lodge, Sturgeon Bay $25
June 21 Sen. Alberta Darling R-River Hills Milwaukee Yacht Club $100
June 21 Rep. Jeff Plale D-South Milwaukee Pig roast at Miller Park, Oak Creek  
June 28 Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen R-Waukesha Mequon $50-$125
June 28 Rep.David Cullen D-Milwaukee Backyard barbecue, Milwaukee  
July 28 Rep. Bonnie Ladwig R-Racine Western Roundup fund raiser, Caledonia $25
July 29 Sen. Gary Drzewiecki R-Pulaski 6th Annual Picnic, Pamperin Park, Green Bay  
Aug. 1 Rep. Sheryl Albers
Rep. Joan Spillner
Comedian Roger Radley, Mexicali Rose, Wisconsin Dells  
Aug. 2 Rep. John La Fave D-Milwaukee 2nd Annual Family Fun Day, Brown Deer Village Park  
Aug. 3 Republican Assembly Campaign Committee NA Trappers Turn Golf Course, Wisconsin Dells $100
Aug. 3 Rep. Carol Owens R-Oshkosh Corn roast and birthday bash, Rosendale  
Aug. 11 Rep. Marc Duff R-New Berlin New Berlin Lanes  
Aug. 15 Rep. Robert Goetsch R-Juneau Annual park picnic, Beaver Dam  
Aug. 17 Rep. Luther Olsen R-Berlin 4th Annual Olsen Open and Steak Fry, Berlin $100
Aug. 17 Rep. Sheryl Albers
Rep. Joan Spillner
Comedian Roger Radley, 1660 N. Prospect Ave., Milwaukee  
Aug. 18 Senate Majority Leader Charles Chvala D-Madison 14th Annual Summer Bash, Winnequah Park, Monona  
Aug. 24 Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen R-Waukesha Speaker’s Club briefing, University Club, Milwaukee  
Aug. 26 Sen. Gary Drzewiecki R-Pulaski 1st Annual Marinette Park Picnic  
Aug. 29 Assembly Majority Leader Steve Foti R-Oconomowoc Backyard barbecue  
Aug. 31 Rep. Mark Pettis R-Hertel Dalles House, St. Croix Falls $50
Sept. 2 Rep. Gregg Underheim R-Oshkosh 1999 Oshkosh Golf outing, Westhaven Golf Club, Oshkosh  
Sept. 2 Sen. Kevin Shibilski D-Stevens Point Milwaukee Metropolitan Assn. Of Commerce  
Sept. 10 Republican Assembly Campaign Committee NA Door County Fish Boil, Bailey’s Harbor $35-$50
Sept. 10 Rep. Steve Nass R-Whitewater Fish boil, Rushing Waters Trout Farm, Palmyra $25-$40
Sept. 11 Rep. Lee Meyerhofer D-Kaukauna Golf outing, Mid-Valee Golf Course  
Sept. 13 Rep. Mark Pettis R-Hertel Grantsburg  
Sept. 13 Sen. Gwen Moore D-Milwaukee Louisiana Jamboree, The Savoy, Milwaukee $35
Sept. 14 Rep. Mark Pettis R-Hertel Osceola $25
Sept. 14 Sen. Bob Welch R-Redgranite Milwaukee Athletic Club  
Sept. 16 Committee to Elect a Republican Senate NA Milwaukee County Zoo Reception and Tour $150
Sept. 19 Rep. John Ainsworth R-Shawano 59th Birthday Fundraiser, Arlington Park, Shawano  
Sept. 20 Sen. Bob Welch R-Redgranite Welch Fall Classic Golf Outing, Fox Fire Golf Club, Waupaca  
Sept. 20 Rep. Julie Lassa D-Plover First Annual Fish Boil, Iverson Park, Stevens Point  
Sept. 27 Republican Assembly Campaign Committee NA Reception, Megaan’s Restaurant and Pub, Lake Mills $100
Sept. 28 State Republican Party NA Chenequa Country Club, Chenequa $500
Oct. 1 Rep. Joseph Leibham R-Sheboygan Airplane rides and reception, Sheboygan County Airport $25
Oct. 4 Rep. Dan Vrakas R-Hartland Home of lobbyist and former Administration Secretary James Klauser $50
Oct. 7 Rep. Scott Walker R-Wauwatosa Wauwatosa  
Oct. 18 Assembly Minority Leader Shirley Krug D-Milwaukee Sequels, Milwaukee  
Oct. 20 Republican Assembly Campaign Committee NA Whitehorse Inn, Madison $100

Source: Quarles & Brady Fundraiser Lists

*Dollar amounts represent a "suggested" or "minimum" contribution requested by the fund raiser. A blank means there was no suggested contribution amount.