Saturday, July 29, 2006

And yet another story about Doyle's campaign donations

You would think with so many of these coming out, that we were making this stuff up, right?

No such luck for the Doyle team, we are not making this stuff up. It is all true.

Here is another story from the AP-

Firm that won state grant hosted Doyle fundraiser, records show

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Two months after Gov. Jim Doyle handed a yacht-building company a $1.16 million state grant, the company president hosted a fundraiser that netted more than $16,000 in donations to his campaign, records show.

Doyle accepted the donations even though he had returned $10,000 in contributions from the same Burger Boat Co. executives months earlier, citing the company's pending application for the state aid.

The donations Doyle returned were made in November, three days after a Department of Transportation panel recommended Burger Boat for the grant. Doyle, a Democrat running for re-election against U.S. Rep. Mark Green, has said he became aware of the close timing and returned them to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

But Doyle's latest disclosure report shows he turned around six months later and accepted $16,300 from company executives in May, two months after he formally announced the awarding of the grant at the company's Manitowoc headquarters.

Doyle had a $2 million fundraising advantage over Green as of June 30, with $5.17 million in the bank. But he has insisted there's a firewall between the campaign and state government.

David Ross, president of Burger Boat, the 143-year-old maker of luxury yachts, said the latest donations came at a fundraiser he hosted at his home for the governor. He gave $1,300 while his wife Katherine, also a company owner, gave the maximum $10,000 allowed.

Company vice president James Ruffolo gave $5,000 - the amount that was returned to him by Doyle's campaign six months earlier. Other executives from Manitowoc firms gave a total of $3,000 on the same day.

The fundraiser was in no way tied to the grant, Ross said, describing himself as a huge Doyle supporter.

"We want to help him out in his campaign," Ross said. "That's the bottom line and it really doesn't get simpler than that."

Doyle campaign spokesman Anson Kaye said the donations last year were returned "out of an abundance of caution" but that nothing inappropriate had occurred. He said Burger Boat executives approached the campaign after the grant process to again offer their support and the campaign accepted.

"The main thing here is that this is a good Wisconsin business that supports the governor for the work he's done for the state," Kaye said.

Bob Delaporte, spokesman for the state Republican Party, which has repeatedly accused Doyle of rewarding campaign contributors with state business, said Doyle was "tone deaf to the appearance of things."

"It looks like he got a refund," he said. "If the donations were inappropriate at one time, what made them suddenly appropriate?"

A Department of Transportation official has said a five-member advisory committee was not aware of the company's donations to Doyle and enthusiastically endorsed its grant proposal. The grant helped the company build a ramp to launch oversized yachts into the Manitowoc River.

The grant was one of three harbor assistance grants that Doyle announced this spring, with the others going to the city of Superior and the Port of Milwaukee.

Ross and Ruffolo brought Burger Boat out of bankruptcy, reopening the shipyard in February 1993. Doyle has called the company "one of the great success stories in Wisconsin."

Ross said state aid has been critical for an expansion of Burger Boat that has doubled the size of the firm to 400 employees. The company won $2.1 million in state grants and loans in 2003. Executives donated $10,000 to Doyle's campaign that year, too.

The Burger president said the governor has helped the economy in the Manitowoc area rebound from factory closures and mass layoffs.

"We need more people in politics that are like Jim Doyle," he said. "He's going up against a formidable opponent here and I happen to think he's doing a wonderful job and would like to see him re-elected."

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