Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Doyle lawyer urged sanction

He lobbied 3 on Elections Board before Green vote


Posted: Sept. 20, 2006

Madison - A lawyer for Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle's campaign repeatedly lobbied three Democratic members of the State Elections Board before they voted with the majority to order Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Green to divest $467,844 in donations from out-of-state political action committees, records show.

Attorney Michael S. Maistelman bluntly told Democratic Party members of the board he contacted why they should publicly sanction or punish the Green campaign, according to documents obtained by the Journal Sentinel under the state's open records law.

"Even if this ends up in Court it is a PR victory for us since it makes Green spend money and have to defend the use of his Washington DC dirty money," Maistelman said in a 9:31 a.m. e-mail one day before the vote. He sent the message to Carl Holborn and Kerry Dwyer, board members appointed by Democratic leaders of the Legislature.

Holborn, Dwyer and another Democratic appointee, Robert Kasieta, were part of a five-vote majority that gave Green's campaign 10 days to divest itself of $467,844 in donations from political action committees not registered in Wisconsin - an order the Green campaign will fight in a Dane County courtroom today.

Maistelman declined to be interviewed but told the Journal Sentinel in an e-mail that he was working for the Doyle campaign when he contacted Elections Board members. He noted that it was the non-partisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - and not the Doyle campaign - that filed the complaint about Green's political action committee donations that was upheld by the board.

"I'm an elections lawyer retained in connection with a matter before the Elections Board," said Maistelman, who campaign finance records show has been paid more than $21,000 by the Doyle campaign since January 2004.

"Of course I had conversations with the board members about the legal issues involved in this case, and the merits of Congressman Green's arguments, as I'm sure counsel for Green did," Maistelman said.

Asked why the Doyle campaign hired Maistelman, spokesman Anson Kaye said that Green's campaign "broke the law" by taking the $467,844.

"There was an important matter before the Elections Board," Kaye said. "We retained an attorney to advocate on our behalf, just as the Green campaign did."

Mark Graul, Green's campaign manager, said "nobody from the Green campaign" contacted any Elections Board member before the board's vote Aug. 30. The Journal Sentinel's open records request turned up no e-mail correspondence between Green aides and Elections Board members.

Green's argument

On the day the board voted, a lawyer for the Green campaign argued that the campaign should not have to divest itself of the PAC money. Green's lawyer, Don Millis, said that over the years, the board had approved three similar transfers.

Eric Schutt, Green's deputy campaign manager, on Wednesday called the documents outlining Maistelman's actions "yet another example of Jim Doyle manipulating state government for political gain."

"The information provided in these e-mails proves the decision was made well in advance of the State Elections Board meeting and that the decision was orchestrated by Jim Doyle's attorney," Schutt said.

Maistelman's contacts with the three board members were legal, said board legal counsel George Dunst. Any member of the public, and officials of the Green campaign, could have contacted board members to argue their position before the vote, Dunst said.

Dwyer noted, "Certainly, people contact us - that's what happens when you are in our positions."

The controversy over the Election Board's decision in the Green case has revived a debate over whether the board should be abolished. A move to combine the Elections and Ethics boards, and give the new merged board more authority to investigate corruption, passed the state Senate but died in the Assembly this year.

Avoided 'walking quorum'

E-mails and other documents obtained under the open records law show that Maistelman carefully chose which board members to lobby to avoid a potentially illegal "walking quorum" of board members scheduled to vote on Aug. 30 on whether to penalize Green's campaign.

At one point, Maistelman noted that another Democratic board member, Sherwin Hughes, Doyle's designee on the board, must be kept "out of the (contact) loop as I do not want to run into a violation of the Open Meetings laws."

The records show that Maistelman targeted Democratic board members Kasieta, Dwyer and Holborn with his e-mails and calls, and a visit to Kasieta's office, to advocate that the board find a way to punish Green's campaign.

Maistelman also suggested ways to do it.

"We need to accomplish the following," Maistelman e-mailed Holborn and Dwyer at 9:30 a.m. on the day before the Elections Board vote. In the same e-mail, Maistelman suggested possible anti-Green decisions the board could make.

In another e-mail the same day, Maistelman told the three Democrats that Holburn had suggested to him that the Elections Board "give Green an opportunity to get the out-of-state PACs registered so the (board) looks reasonable."

Maistelman added that he had run that idea "by the powers that be," and they had approved it.

Asked whom his comment referred to, Maistelman said he "was dealing with Dan Schooff on a regular basis on this matter, and we discussed possible legal remedies from time to time."

Schooff is Doyle's re-election campaign manager. Before joining the campaign, he was a state Public Service Commission official and member of the Assembly.

Holburn said he listens to Maistelman sometimes and at other times doesn't respond to his calls and e-mails.

Kasieta, who was out of town and not available for comment Wednesday, was appointed to the board by the state Democratic Party chairman.

Hughes and Libertarian Party designee Jacob Burns voted with the three other board members lobbied by Maistelman; two Republican board members backed Green. One non-partisan board member was absent, and the ninth member, a Republican designee, did not participate because of a conflict of interest

John Savage and John Schober, the two Republican members of the board who voted against sanctioning Green's campaign, responded to the newspaper's open records request by saying they did not have any documents covered by the request.

The $467,844 in question was legally given to Green's congressional campaign but was part of $1.3 million he transferred to his state campaign fund in January 2005.

Rule changed next day

The transfer came one day before the Elections Board adopted a rule requiring that all money spent on campaigns for governor must be given by political action committees registered with the state.

Maistelman was present on Aug. 30 when the Elections Board took its action against Green's campaign and talked to some board members before the vote. The same day, he denied that he was there working for the Doyle campaign.


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