The plot thickens in Elections Board case
Here's a little something else for Paul Bucher to investigate. It wasn't front page news, of course, and the Journal Sentinel didn't do its own reporting, but at least this story made the paper -- or at least part of it did.
For some mysterious reason, only about half the story ran, on the front of the Metro section, with a line that said turn to 5B for the rest. But the rest didn't run, so you never got to read the part about Wiley's phone call, or the Democratic reaction. I'm not suggesting it was intentional, but it is still distressing.
GOP leader also contacted boardThat is where the story ends, at least in my edition of the newspaper.
No strategy discussed in brief call, Wiley says
Madison-- On the day a district attorney announced he will investigate lobbying of Elections Board members by an attorney for Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, the head of the state Republican Party said he too had conversations with a board member the day before a key vote.
At issue is the appropriateness and legality of conversations and e-mails that took place before the board voting 5-2 on Aug. 30 to require Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Green to return nearly $468,000 in campaign donations.
On Thursday, the Journal Sentinel revealed that three Democrats who voted for Green to return the money had been contacted in the days leading up to the vote by Doyle campaign attorney Michael S. Maistelman.
Elections Board attorney George Dunst has said there was nothing illegal about the contact, and Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard said Friday he will not be launching an investigation.
But Paul Bucher, the Waukesha County district attorney who lost in the Sept. 12 Republican primary for attorney general, said Friday that he believes he has jurisdiction to look into the allegations surrounding the meeting that occurred in Brookfield, which is in his county.
Bucher said he plans to look for violations of the state's open meeting laws, ethics code and lobbying statutes.
And now, as Paul Harvey would say, here's the rest of the story:
Meanwhile, Republican Party executive director Rick Wiley said Friday that he spoke with Elections Board member John Savage, a Republican who was selected to serve by the party, on the day before the vote. Wiley said he called Savage to consult with him after hearing that Savage told people at a GOP fund raiser that he did not believe the vote was going to go in favor of Green.The reason it's not a better, juicier story is that Maistelman put things in writing. Wiley wisely made a phone call, and no one will ever know what was said in that conversation. Good to hear it was not about "strategy." Maybe that's because the Republican board members were automatically going to vote to let Congressman Mark Green break the law. It's a little hard to believe that Wiley called Savage to find our how many members of the board were Republicans, and hard to understand why, only four of nine members are Dems, why it should be assumed the decision would go against Green.
Wiley said Savage told him that given the partisan makeup of the board - which has four Democrats, three Republicans, one Libertarian and one non-partisan appointee - it was unlikely Green's position would win out. Wiley said he told Savage he had to agree, but they didn't discuss any other strategy about the vote.
A call to Savage's home late Friday rang unanswered.
Wiley said he talked to no other board members and that he knows of no one else with the party or Green's campaign who spoke to the board.
Doyle's campaign seized on the news.
"For days Republicans have been pointing fingers at everyone but themselves to distract voters from the simple fact that Congressman Green violated state and federal laws with his illegal transfer," said Melanie Fonder, Doyle's spokeswoman. "What's wrong here is the Republican hypocrisy has been exposed."
Wiley said he figured that would be the Democratic response, but his brief conversation with Savage was different from the e-mails Maistelman sent that outlined specific action board members should take and how they should vote.
"He was bound and determined to write the language for this transfer and how they were going to deem that Mark Green did this illegally," Wiley said.
The three Democrats who were lobbied by Maistelman, along with another Democrat and a Libertarian board member, voted in favor of the order against Green. Savage and another Republican member voted against it.
There was nothing wrong with Maistelman contacting board members, and nothing wrong with Wiley's phone call. But, sauce for the goose ...
Afterthought. It should be noted that this AP story comes after two days of the JS failing or refusing to ask the right questions, and letting Green and the GOP get away with carefully parsed statements that "no one from the campaign" had contacted any board members. I still say that if Green's lawyer didn't talk to any board members before the meeting, he should be fired for malpractice.
UPDATE: This Dem Party release is amusing and on target:
Wiley Calls for Resignation ofUPDATE 2: Saturday's story was reprinted in Sunday's paper, inside the Metro section, in my edition, with a note saying only part of the story ran in some editions because of a production error.
Republican Elections Board Member
RPW Executive Director Attacks Democrats
for Doing Exactly What He Himself Did
MADISON-- The hypocritical partisan attacks from Republicans just keep coming.
Yesterday, the Republican Party of Wisconsin called on Democratic members of the State Elections Board to resign over contacts with a Democratic elections lawyer that the board’s own attorney said were legal and appropriate. [Source: Associated Press, 9/22/06]
That same day, it was learned that RPW Executive Director Rick Wiley called his own appointee on the board just one day before the board ruled that Congressman Mark Green violated state campaign finance laws. [Source: Associated Press, 9/22/06]
UPDATE 3: A nugget from WisPolitics' report to subscribers:
[Republican board member John] Schober said he was not contacted prior to the Green vote. But, he said, it isn't unusual for members to receive e-mails as a group and wouldn't condemn his fellow board members for their contacts with Maistelman.
"Mere contact in and of itself isn't prohibited," said Schober, who was appointed by Senate Majority Leader Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center. "The fact somebody contacted them to me isn't improper. It isn't for me to judge other board members and how they arrive at their decisions."