Tuesday, January 24, 2006

DEMOCRAT ELDER STATESMAN MCCANN CONDEMNS DOYLE


McCann criticizes Doyle on donations
DA pushes reform on campaign finance
By STEVEN WALTERS and PATRICK MARLEY
swalters@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Dec. 15, 2005

Madison - Gov. Jim Doyle lost his credibility on campaign-finance reform when he did nothing to disavow or discourage the donation of $725,000 by tribes on his behalf in 2002, Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann said Thursday.

A day after McCann announced he would not seek re-election next year, he was in Madison to witness the sentencing of former state Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala (D-Madison) on two felonies related to Capitol corruption.

"There needs to be serious, organic change on campaign financing. If there isn't, this will continue," said McCann, whose office prosecuted Chvala. "There will be another day when another legislative leader is in a criminal courtroom. I want clean government back in our state. It can be done."

Although he is a Democrat, and Doyle is the leader of his party, McCann said that Doyle's ability to advocate for campaign-finance reform was crippled because he did not renounce the tribes for giving $725,000 to the Democratic National Committee, which soon gave money to the state party to promote Doyle in the election.

"I think that was a tragedy, because the ball was rolling to have government reform," McCann said. "How could the governor stand before the people and call for reform with respect to campaign financing? I'm urging him to do that now."

McCann, a vocal opponent of gambling, announced Wednesday that he will end his 38-year career as district attorney when his term is up next year. On Wednesday, Doyle praised McCann's long career in public service. On Thursday, he blasted the district attorney.

"He ought to get his facts straight," Doyle said, insisting that he has been at the forefront in calling for campaign finance reform in Wisconsin. "I'm the one who has asked several times for changes in the law," said Doyle, speaking after a Milwaukee news conference where he signed into law a bill requiring physicians to inform pregnant women of their option to donate their umbilical cord blood for medical treatment and research. "And a lot more has been spent against me than for me," added Doyle, whose campaign hopes to raise about $11 million for his re-election bid next fall.

McCann acknowledged that the tribal donations were legal but said such contributions compromise politicians.

The critical need for campaign-finance reform has been illustrated by the convictions of Chvala, former state Sen. Brian Burke (D-Milwaukee) and the scheduled trial next year of three Republicans, including Rep. Scott Jensen of the Town of Brookfield, who faces three felony charges of having aides campaign on state time, McCann said.

McCann said he supports and will lobby for public financing of elections.

"The government is for sale," McCann said. "The people ought to buy it."

Shortly before the 2002 election, the Democratic National Committee received $500,000 from the Ho-Chunk Nation, $200,000 from the Forest County Potawatomi and $25,000 from the Oneida. Within days, the committee gave about $1 million to the state party, which used the money to support Doyle and other Democrats.

Additionally, Doyle's campaign has received more than $190,000 since 2002 from the family of Dennis Troha, who is seeking state approval to allow the Menominee tribe to build a Kenosha casino.

After his election, Doyle signed perpetual casino agreements with the tribes that allowed them to offer poker and other new games. The state Supreme Court ruled that Doyle did not have the authority to sign such agreements.

The state and Potawatomi have since reached a new, 25-year deal; the tribe maintains it can continue to offer the new games under that agreement, despite the court's ruling. Negotiations with other tribes continue.

Asked what happened after the tribes indirectly donated $725,000 to help elect Doyle, McCann said: "They did tremendously well. How much better could they have done?"

Potawatomi spokesman Ken Walsh acknowledged the tribe has set aside $7.2 million for political, lobbying and legal purposes in 2006 but declined to say how much of that money would go toward campaigns and election ads. Much of the money was set aside because of Dairyland Greyhound Park's lawsuit claiming the state constitution bars Indian casinos.

The tribe's spending on elections is no different from other groups', he said.

"Not unlike businesses or organizations, the Potawatomi participate in the political process," he said. "They participate in a bipartisan manner."

Crystal Holtz, a spokeswoman for the Oneida, said that tribe gave money to both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican Governors Association and had no say on which candidates benefited from the spending by those groups. Ho-Chunk officials did not return a call.

Money talks

Sen. Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) praised McCann's comments, after the senator watched his proposal for campaign finance reform trounced by both parties in the Senate this year.

The spending by the tribes "was the first example that the governor's campaign pledge as a candidate was going to go down the drain when he became governor, so McCann was right on the money," Ellis said.

Ellis said he hoped McCann's comments - along with recent criticism of Doyle's fund raising - would help him get Doyle on his side as he pushes another campaign-finance reform bill in the spring. But he said it would be tough to garner Doyle's support as he heads into his re-election campaign.

"I think his inner self would like to change the system, but like his predecessors, once he gets in that powerful seat, he isn't interested in leveling the playing field for people who would like to take that seat," Ellis said.

Ellis blamed both Doyle and Republicans who control the Legislature for killing his bill. "I lay the blame on a culture of the preservation of incumbents. . . . Both sides are beholden to the people who paid for the yard signs, paid for the TV ads, paid for the radio ads," he said.

A Democratic leader on the issue, Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), said negotiations have bogged down on two issues: whether tax dollars should be used to help candidates being attacked by third-party groups; and whether those groups should be required to disclose not only what they are spending but how they raised the money.

Erpenbach said Doyle could do nothing to stop the tribes from exercising their legal right to give to the national Democratic Party.

"You can stand up and say, 'Don't do it.' That's all you can do," Erpenbach said.

Jay Heck, head of Common Cause in Wisconsin, a group that helped write Ellis' bill, said he was disappointed that Doyle had not pushed for campaign-finance reforms, as he'd said he would as a candidate.

"I think he's been silent on the issue because he sees far more to gain right now in raising a big pile of money for re-election and doesn't want to put that re-election at risk," Heck said.

Doyle's Republican opponents - Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and U.S. Rep. Mark Green of Green Bay - do not support public financing of campaigns.

Walker said candidates should agree to voluntary spending limits, though he acknowledged such deals were unlikely in the current race for governor. He said he would support regulating in some form ads supporting candidates made by groups other than the candidates' campaigns.

Green's campaign manager, Mark Graul, said Green supports full disclosure of those independent expenditures.

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