Thursday, May 11, 2006

INVESTIGATORS QUESTION DOYLE TEAM ON CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS-NUCLEAR APPROVAL CONNECTION


Psc Workers Interviewed In Probe
Investigators Look Into Controversial Sale Of Nuclear Power Plant.
Wisconsin State Journal Wednesday, May 10, 2006
JASON STEIN jstein@madison.com 608-252-6129

Investigators at the state Department of Justice conducted long interviews last month with at least three state regulatory employees involved in the approval of the controversial sale of a nuclear power plant last year, agency records show.
Authorities have also questioned two employees at a Green Bay utility whose executives held a fundraiser for Gov. Jim Doyle the day before state regulators made an initial decision on the $191.5 million sale of a nuclear plant owned in part by that utility, a company spokesman said.

The three April meetings recorded in the visitor log at the state Public Service Commission show a probe into possible influence-buying in the Kewaunee plant case is ongoing.

Department of Justice spokesman Brian Rieselman declined comment.

PSC spokeswoman Linda Barth confirmed the logbook was accurate but wouldn't comment on what was discussed, saying the PSC doesn't "comment on any matter where there's a review pending and it's DOJ's review."
"We are cooperating fully with the Department of Justice. We are confident that the process and procedures followed in this decision were accurate and appropriate and that we're looking for a speedy resolution in this matter," Barth said.

The log showed that between April 4 and April 11, two agents of the state Division of Criminal Investigation met for several hours each with: PSC economist Dennis Koepke, who served as an analyst on the Kewaunee sale case; Jeff Kitsembel, who handles nuclear issues for the PSC; and PSC general counsel David Gilles, who also played a role in the case.

Koepke wouldn't comment, other than to say he was the first person interviewed by investigators. Kitsembel and Gilles did not return messages.

A November 2004 fundraiser by the top executive of the parent of utility Wisconsin Public Service Corp. of Green Bay drew $25,750 for Doyle -- the largest single day of donations by utility workers for a state political candidate from 1993 to June 2005, a State Journal analysis found. The Kewaunee plant was then owned by WPS and Alliant Energy Corp. of Madison, which were attempting to sell it to Dominion Resources of Richmond, Va.

The PSC initially denied the request for the sale in November 2004, but after the three companies revised their proposal, the PSC approved the sale in March 2005.

WPS spokesman Kerry Spees said Tuesday that an executive at the utility and one other employee have also been interviewed by investigators about the Kewaunee case. Spees said he wasn't sure of the date of the meetings and he wouldn't give other details.

"We think that trying to make a connection between a campaign contribution to Gov. Doyle and some (PSC decision) is quite a stretch," Spees said. "We don't believe there's anything there."

Investigators have not questioned any Alliant employees, spokesman Scott Smith said.

Both PSC officials and Doyle's campaign denied any connection between donations and regulatory action.

"That's ludicrous," campaign spokesman Anson Kaye said, noting the independence of PSC regulators.

The three members of the PSC are appointed by the governor. It is controlled by two Doyle appointees.

Late last year, state Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager said her office was looking into possibly improper meetings in 2004 between top aides at the PSC and utility executives in the months leading up to the first Kewaunee decision.

In the recent interviews, Lautenschlager's office appears to be focusing on the campaign donations and not those meetings, said one source who has spoken with investigators. The source asked not to be named to protect professional relationships.

Of the April interviews, none were with the top aides who were involved in those 2004 meetings, though Gilles has also been a point person for the PSC on that matter.

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