Monday, January 30, 2006

"There is an appearance here that government grants were being traded for campaign donations,"

Group asks Doyle to withdraw from investigation into caucuses
11:34 AM 6/12/02
Phil Brinkman State government reporter

A government watchdog group Wednesday called for an investigation into Attorney General Jim Doyle's handling of settlement proceeds from a price-fixing lawsuit after critics questioned whether Doyle directed the money to certain groups in exchange for campaign contributions.
indentThe Wisconsin Democracy Campaign asked for Doyle to withdraw from the ongoing investigation into illegal campaign activity by the legislative caucuses, citing a potential conflict of interest. Part of that investigation may involve allegations of legislators trading votes for campaign donations.
indent"There is an appearance here that government grants were being traded for campaign donations," said Mike McCabe, executive director of the Democracy Campaign. "That appearance alone does great harm to the integrity of state government and further undermines public confidence in our elected state officials."
indentThe state Republican Party also called on Doyle, a Democratic candidate for governor, to return the donations.
indentThat's not going to happen, said Doyle campaign spokesman John Kraus, who said Doyle did nothing wrong.
indent"There's absolutely no connection between the grant process and campaign contributions," Kraus said. "Everybody who knows Jim Doyle knows he doesn't operate that way. It's crazy to suggest a $50 donation would get you a $50,000 grant."
indentDoyle spokesman Randy Romanski called the Democracy Campaign's appeal to quit the caucus probe "ridiculous."
indentDane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard said he saw "no basis to open a criminal investigation" into the allegations.
indentThe clamor came after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported individuals connected to at least six of the 12 charitable groups receiving grants contributed to Doyle's campaign shortly before or after the grants were announced.
indentThe donations ranged from $50 from the director of an anti-hunger group receiving a $50,000 grant, to $10,000 from movie producer Jerry Zucker after Doyle gave a $250,000 grant to UW-Madison's stem-cell research program in Zucker's name.
indentThe newspaper also reported that Doyle picked five of the groups for grants rather than rely on the recommendations of a nine-member advisory panel to distribute all of the $6.6 million settlement, as presented to a court.
indentBut the judge who approved the distribution said Wednesday he understood the suggestions came from the panel.
indent"If I had been told otherwise, I would have asked some different questions about the identification of the groups," Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Timothy Dugan said.
indentRomanski said Doyle was involved in picking the groups but "ultimately, the recommendations that were presented to the court were recommendations approved by the committee."
indentThe money comes from Wisconsin's share of an antitrust settlement against six major vitamin manufacturers who conspired to fix prices. The grants were awarded to groups that feed the hungry, help the homeless and provide dental care for the poor.


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