Monday, January 30, 2006

Doyle Fundraiser Questioned



Doyle Fundraiser Questioned
By Molly Marcello
Mendota Beacon
November 22, 2005
The Wisconsin State Ethics Board is preparing a potential investigation into a September 8th fundraiser for Governor Jim Doyle’s re-election. The probe surrounds Deputy Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT), Ruben Anthony Jr., and whether inviting clients that compete for DOT engineering contracts was unethical.

Inviting these companies, which included HNTB Corp., CH2M Hill Inc., and Ayres Association, raises questions about Anthony’s intentions. Some Wisconsin politicians worry that undue pressure was placed upon those companies to either donate to Doyle’s re-election campaign or risk the loss of state engineering contracts.

A formal schedule of approvals made by the DOT cites Anthony as having the last judgment as to which agencies receives the contracts. However, a contrasting DOT flow chart for contract approval denotes a committee of civil servants with the final power to approve the contracts.

Attempting to clear confusion, the DOT stated that they recently reorganized their approval policies and have yet to write a formal procedure. They assert that contract approval now rests with the committee to make the final judgment call.

Ideally, DOT engineering contracts are determined solely by evaluating the company based upon their credentials. Only after selecting the qualified clients does the DOT negotiate prices. Unfortunately, Anthony’s alleged motives may have compromised this otherwise equal competition.

Prompted by news coverage of the potential Deputy Secretary investigation, the Wisconsin State Ethics Board is now pushing even harder for legislation that would ban department secretaries, executive assistants, administrators, and commissioners from soliciting political donations in order to avoid similar conflicts of interest.

Legal counsel for the State Ethics Board, Jonathan Becker, asserts that the board lobbied for a bill banning full-time political appointees from obtaining contributions “as early as three years ago” and only now is more adamant as a result of the widening publicity surrounding the DOT. Becker alludes that with the news coverage of the potential Anthony investigation, not enacting this legislation simply “looks bad”.

“If this legislation becomes law”, comments Deputy Secretary Anthony on the Ethics Boards’ bill proposal, “I will follow the law”. However, faced with the facts of the fundraiser, the question remains whether his previous actions were above the law. The Ethics Board promises to move forward with this investigation and new legislation, as they hope to secure an equal playing field for all companies within the state of Wisconsin.

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