Monday, January 30, 2006

Doyle rebuffs review questions


Doyle rebuffs review questions
Campaign donations by Adelman Travel investigated
By STEVEN WALTERS
swalters@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Jan. 4, 2006

Madison - A testy Gov. Jim Doyle on Wednesday refused to say whether he has been interviewed or approached by investigators probing a controversial travel contract given to a company whose officers gave his campaign the maximum donation of $10,000 each.

"Look, I'm not going to talk - the reviews are being made," said Doyle, who also wouldn't disclose whether he had retained a personal attorney to deal with the controversy. "We are cooperating in every way we can with the reviews. . . . You can talk to those conducting the reviews."

In a related development, the head of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign said state Justice Department investigators in October asked for information on campaign finance donations to the governor's campaign from utility executives trying to arrange the sale of the Kewaunee nuclear power plant - a sign that the pending investigation may have gone beyond the Adelman Travel contract.

Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, said his organization had given the state investigators records of $43,000 in utility-related donations to Doyle's campaign. McCabe said the state investigators told him they were going to turn the materials over to the office of Milwaukee-based U.S. Attorney Steven M. Biskupic, who is leading the state-federal probe.

McCabe said his group also volunteered records documenting increased donations by SBC executives to the governor's campaign in 2004. The timing of SBC donations to Doyle were "interesting," McCabe said, because the governor later signed a $108 million, five-year telecommunications contract with an alliance led by SBC.

McCabe said state investigators came to him asking for records of campaign donations to aid Doyle's re-election bid. The non-profit Democracy Campaign has the most complete database of campaign gifts of $100 or more to Capitol officials.

"It's not our job to decide if laws have been broken," McCabe said. "It's the job of citizens to decide." He added that he personally believes the campaign cash played too great a role in Doyle administration decisions.

From the questions asked by state investigators, McCabe said he concluded that investigators are not only probing whether politics played a role in the Adelman Travel contract, but are also:

• Checking any improper relationship between campaign donations from executives of two utilities, Wisconsin Public Service Corp. and Alliant Energy, who hosted three fund-raising events for Doyle before and after the Public Service Commission declined, and then approved, sale of the Kewaunee nuclear plant to a Virginia utility.

• An August fund-raiser for Doyle sponsored by Deputy Transportation Secretary Ruben Anthony Jr., who personally invited engineering consultants, road builders and other DOT vendors to the event. Who contributed, and how much they gave, won't be disclosed until later this month, when the Doyle campaign files its next finance report covering the last half of 2005.

It was not clear what - if anything - Biskupic has decided to do with campaign-finance records provided by the Democracy Campaign documenting campaign cash to Doyle from utility and SBC employees.

The new SBC contract "saved taxpayers $65 million," said Rich Judge, the governor's campaign manager.

He said SBC "didn't want this thing to be competitive," since it had the contract for years, but Doyle and his aides insisted on negotiating a better deal.

The Democracy Campaign's new role in the investigation was first reported Wednesday by The Associated Press.

"We don't comment on investigations," said Bill Lipscomb, Biskupic's top assistant.

"This agency has no comment on any ongoing investigations," said Kelly Kennedy, spokesman for Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager.

Taking orders from Biskupic, federal and state investigators have been investigating whether $10,000 contributions each from two Adelman Travel executives, company founder Craig Adelman and board member Mitchell Fromstein, played any role in a $750,000, three-year contract the firm was awarded last year to coordinate travel by state employees.

The contract has not yet been fully implemented, although state officials say they hope to have it in place within a few months.

Doyle again said Wednesday that he played no personal role in the bid process that led to Adelman Travel getting the contract. He said that during his three years as governor, he made it clear that campaign donations must play no role in contracts or state work.

"The contracting process is to be done by civil servants, to be done by people who are isolated from the political process - that's something I've respected all of my time as governor," Doyle said. "There are campaigns, and you keep that very separate from what you do in government."

In his first 2 1/2 years as governor, Doyle raised about $4.7 million - well on his way to what campaign officials say is their $11 million goal by the November election.

If Doyle raised $11 million on his re-election bid, it would set a record for spending by a single candidate for governor of Wisconsin.

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