It appears that I am not the only one questioning why there have been so many large donations to Jim Doyle from the Kenosha area. The front page of today's Kenosha News is pointing out exactly what I was speaking about on yesterday's blog.
It appears that I am not the only crazy person wondering why it is Kenosha contractors are crawling out of the woodwork to throw tens of thousands of dollars to Jim Doyle's re-election campaign.
Gov. Jim Doyle’s re-election campaign took in nearly $137,000 in contributions of $1,000 or greater from Kenosha County residents during the first half of this year.
His Republican challenger, Mark Green, received just $2,000 from four-figure Kenosha County supporters.
Mid-year campaign finance reports filed earlier this month indicate the bulk of Doyle’s major Kenosha-area contributions were recorded on or around a Feb 2 Kenosha fund-raiser organized by local casino developer Dennis Troha, himself a top Doyle supporter.
The roster of donors reads like a who’s who of local contractors, many of whom Troha acknowledged might have an interest in deriving work from his and the Menominee Nation’s proposed $808 million casino complex at Dairyland Greyhound Park.
Direct gambling interests from other parts of the country also made significant contributions to Doyle that night, reports show.
Officials from the Connecticut-based Mohegan Tribe, which is partnering with the Menominee on the Kenosha project, contributed a combined $6,000, and Alabama-based Dairyland officials wrote out $7,500 in campaign checks.
But Troha and some of the donors who attended the February fund-raiser at the Kenosha Country Club said the spirit of the evening and the donations went beyond the casino project, which the governor has final authority to approve or reject after pending federal review is completed.
“I think they wanted to make sure that the governor was aware,” Troha said of the donors. “That, ‘Governor, please keep Kenosha in mind, whether it’s the casino project or something else.’”
Kenosha teacher Michelle Valeri said she and her husband, owner of a local insurance company, made a joint $10,000 contribution because she approves of Doyle’s policies on education.
Another $10,000 donor, Dick Day, general superintendent for DK Contractors of Pleasant Prairie, said he considers the casino to be a small piece of the pie, in terms of what the governor has the potential to bring to Kenosha. Day cited two initiatives on which the governor has worked in recent months: possible local developments by DaimlerChrysler and Abbott Laboratories.
“So while everybody’s focusing on the casino — I think that while that would be a big asset to the community — there’s many other things that he could bring to the community,” Day said.
Another local contractor who declined to be named also concentrated on Doyle’s work on Chrysler and Abbott more than the possibility of the casino.
“I think he’s been a plus for the Kenosha area,” said the contractor, who also contributed $10,000 at the Feb. 2 event.
Troha said the contractors’ donations would not have an influence on whether they would gain work on the casino project, should it come to fruition.
“Nobody was promised anything and nobody was coerced to do whatever they decided to do,” Troha said. “It was their decision.”
Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, said he believes it is clear that the larger donations made to Doyle by Kenoshans were largely inspired by the pending casino bid.
McCabe added that he feels situations like this can have a corrosive effect on the level of public confidence in politics.
“I think that any time you’re accepting money from people with a clear stake in a government decision — when you’re accepting money from people who have an obvious interest in steering government in a particular direction — there’s an element of conflict of interest that arises.”
Day said large political donations have simply become a part of doing business.
“You can cook a good steak for the guy, but that’s not going to get you the new engine plant and the pharmaceutical laboratory,” he said.
Green campaign manager Mark Graul said the large donations to Doyle raise eyebrows because the governor could find himself in the position of having the sole authority to sign off on the casino, if the federal government approves it.
Doyle has said he will base his decision on the report he receives from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, while Green has said he would approve the project if he finds it to be in the best interests of state taxpayers and Kenosha County residents.
Melanie Fonder, a Doyle campaign spokeswoman, said no donation would influence the governor in any way.
“The governor enjoys broad support in Kenosha, and people support this governor because they believe in his leadership, his tremendous record of accomplishment and his vision for moving Wisconsin forward,” Fonder said.
All told, Doyle’s campaign received $1.62 million from all donors between Jan. 1 and June 30. Green took in $1.68 million during the same period, although Doyle held a more than $2 million advantage in cash on hand at the end of June.
Of the 21 Kenosha County residents who logged $1,000 or greater contributions to Doyle through June 30, nine gave the $10,000 legal maximum individual donation during a four-year campaign cycle. Doyle’s campaign received 32 $10,000 contributions from all donors.
Green’s campaign took in 10 $10,000 contributions through June 30; none were from Kenosha County donors.
While Doyle received 21 contributions of $1,000 or greater from Kenosha County residents, Green received just two. Both were for $1,000, and one was from local businessman Alfred De Simone, who contributed $1,000 each to Green and Doyle.
“They both agreed that they would take care of the university system, and that’s what I want,” explained De Simone, a former member of the UW System Board of Regents. “They both promised me when I gave them the money that they would not hurt the university and hurt the people who cannot afford to go.”