Monday, January 30, 2006

Campaign Donation Investigation Expands Beyond Travel Contract

Sources: Campaign Donation Investigation Expands Beyond Travel Contract
Investigators Look At Nuclear Power Plant Sale

UPDATED: 7:13 pm CST December 21, 2005
MADISON, Wis. -- While federal, state and local investigators are looking into questionable campaign donations surrounding a state travel contract, the probe into Gov. Jim Doyle is now going beyond just that.
Investigators are currently looking into how travel agency Adelman Travel Systems won a state contract. The company apparently donated money to Doyle's re-election campaign. The governor has said he had nothing to do with it.
Now, two unnamed sources close to the investigation said that prosecutors have widened the probe beyond the concern over the contract, WISC-TV reported.
One of the sources said that investigators are looking into the Public Service Commission's decision to allow the sale of the Kewaunee Nuclear Power Plant four months after the three-member commission rejected the deal.
At around the same time, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Doyle took in more than $41,000 in campaign cash from utility executives involved in the deal.
Doyle appoints members to the Public Service Commission, but the commission is designed to make independent decisions.
The controversy began when Virginia-based Dominion Resources asked the PSC two years ago for approval to buy the power plant from Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) and Alliant Energy, who co-own it.
Three months later, Dominion executives donated $2,000 to Doyle's campaign.
In November 2004, the PSC rejected the deal, 2-1. Both of Doyle's appointees voted against it.
Later, that same month, WPS and Alliant executives gave $25,000 to Doyle's campaign.
Then, in January, the PSC re-opened the proposed sale and approved it on March 17 of this year. Both of Doyle's appointees switched their vote from no to yes.
In the month before and after the vote, WPS and Alliant Energy executives gave another $15,900 to Doyle's campaign.
The governor insists he had no influence on the vote.
"The Public Service Commission is a completely independent body, it makes independent decisions ... based on the record," Doyle said. "I do not make the decisions for the Public Service Commission, they make the decisions."
Dan Schooff, executive assistant for the PSC, also rejected suggestions that the commission was influenced, WISC-TV reported..
"Campaign considerations do not enter into official policy out here, they're not considered and they have no impact," Schooff said.
Schooff said that protections for ratepayers were put in the deal, which is why the two commission members changed their votes.
One of the two commissioners to change their vote was Burnie Bridge. She said that "the allegations about improper influence in the Kewaunee case are absolutely untrue and deeply offensive."
Bridge said that she studied the testimony, "my decision was based on that record-nothing more, nothing less."
The governor, nor any of his staff, have been interviewed by prosecutors, but are willing to if it comes to that, WISC-TV reported.
One of WISC-TV's unnamed sources said that Doyle will be questioned.
Prosecutors will be looking for any links between those donations and any influence on the PSC decision.


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