Saturday, July 08, 2006

Timing of Doyle gift questioned


Timing of Doyle gift questioned
Donation, meeting with former aide at state office coincide
By PATRICK MARLEY
pmarley@journalsentinel.com
Posted: July 7, 2006

Madison - Former Administration Secretary Marc Marotta met last year in his state office with a Philadelphia-area attorney who gave Gov. Jim Doyle $10,000 on the same day, state records show.
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Section : State Politics
Section: Election 2006

Katie Boyce, Doyle's fund- raiser, helped arrange the meeting, said Anson Kaye, a spokesman for Doyle's campaign. Marotta's calendar lists Boyce as an attendee to the meeting, but Kaye said she was included on the calendar in error.

The April 6, 2005, meeting was with Richard Schiffrin and Nicholas Pullen of Schiffrin & Barroway, a firm that specializes in shareholder lawsuits. That same day, Schiffrin gave Doyle's campaign $10,000, the maximum allowed under state law.

Marotta, who stepped down as secretary in October and became Doyle's campaign chairman, did not return phone calls. Sean Dilweg, who served as Marotta's top aide, said the lawyers met with Marotta for less than an hour to discuss hiring the firm to ensure that the state's pension fund signed on to successful shareholder lawsuits. The firm did not get any state work.

The donation and meeting were in no way linked, Dilweg and Kaye said.

As secretary, Marotta was a member of the State of Wisconsin Investment Board, which runs the pension fund. The attorneys met with board staff members the day before; Marotta advised them that those were the people the attorneys should talk to, Dilweg said.

The meeting "was completely about what business they could offer to the state, and he referred them swiftly to SWIB," Dilweg said.

Rick Wiley, executive director of the state Republican Party, said the explanations from Doyle's aides were not credible.

"That is the lamest excuse I have ever heard coming out of their campaign," Wiley said. "I think they're lying about this. This is just another example of the arrogance of Marc Marotta and Jim Doyle."

Wiley said he would ask prosecutors to investigate whether the meeting was improper. Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard and Mike Bauer, an aide to Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, said they were not familiar with Marotta's meeting with Schiffrin.

Blanchard and Lautenschlager - who, like Doyle, are Democrats - have been involved in investigations into ties between campaign donations and state business. Campaign records show Lautenschlager received a $5,000 donation from Barbara Schiffrin of the same firm a day before Richard Schiffrin donated the $10,000 to Doyle.
Balancing act

Marotta's schedule shows that like most of his Democratic and Republican predecessors, he was consistently involved in both campaign work and running the state. His aides have long said he maintained a firewall between political activities and state business by campaigning only off state property and on his own time.

The calendar lists Boyce, by last name only, as a meeting attendee. She is not listed as an attendee for other meetings she arranged for Marotta. Instead, those entries include a notation that says "per K. Boyce."

A call to Boyce was returned by Kaye, the campaign spokesman. He could not explain why Boyce was listed as a participant if she was not supposed to be at the meeting.

Kaye said Boyce referred the lawyers to the Department of Administration several weeks earlier when they asked about state business.

"She never was at the meeting, she was never going to attend the meeting and she never would attend such a meeting," Kaye said.

The meeting was not unusual, Kaye said. "The job of the DOA secretary is to meet with business leaders and find out their ideas for the state," he said.

Marotta has made that argument in the past to explain why he met with Adelman Travel officials about how the state could save money on travel. That firm, whose executives gave Doyle $20,000, eventually landed a $750,000 state contract. State procurement worker Georgia Thompson was convicted last month of illegally steering business to the firm.

Dilweg said Marotta's door was open to a range of business and community leaders, and campaign donors do not have special access to government. He noted Marotta had more than 250 meetings in April and May 2005, including ones with Milwaukee pastors and James Klauser, the administration secretary under Republican Gov. Tommy G. Thompson.

Richard Schiffrin did not return calls. His $10,000 donation to Doyle is the only one he has ever made to a Wisconsin candidate, according to campaign finance records. He is a heavy donor to national Democratic campaigns and Democratic-leaning causes. For instance, he gave $250,000 to outside spending group America Coming Together in 2004.

Schiffrin is one of the founders of Schiffrin & Barroway, a law firm that represents shareholders in class-action suits.
Governor's mansion meeting

Most meetings Marotta had with Boyce occurred off state property over the lunch hour or after normal business hours. One exception was a Dec. 28, 2004, meeting at the governor's mansion.

Kevin Kennedy, the executive director of the State Elections Board, said such a meeting was probably not inappropriate because the governor may conduct personal business at his state-owned residence, even if that means meeting with campaign advisers.

Released Friday under the state's public records law, the calendar also shows that Marotta attended after-hours meetings at Boyce's request, such as a Feb. 9, 2005, budget briefing for the Governor's Circle, a campaign group. On Feb. 15, he attended a dinner with building contractors at the governor's mansion at Boyce's request.

Dilweg said the governor has hosted a number of dinners at the executive residence for various groups, but they were not campaign related.

The schedule also shows Marotta attending a fund-raiser for Senate Democrats in Spring Green from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. May 26, 2005, at Boyce's request. But the schedule also shows Marotta worked past 9:30 that night because he traveled to Eau Claire to speak with the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.

Jonathan Becker, counsel for the state Ethics Board, said cabinet secretaries have flexible schedules because they typically work more than 40 hours a week.

"I don't think cabinet secretaries punch a clock," he said.

On June 15, 2005, Marotta is listed as doing "Desk Time (per K. Boyce)" at the governor's campaign headquarters. Dilweg said that was to make campaign fund-raising calls or to do other political work.

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