Thursday, September 21, 2006

Doyle Campaign Turns Asset into Liability

The Journal Sentinel is leading with a story today that a Doyle attorney contacted three Democratic members of the Elections Board before the vote against Congressman Green on the question of his campaign's unregistered PAC money.

It's sure to be the top GOP talking point in the weeks to come, thereby helping to shape the public's perception of the impending trial.

Of course, there are still important points that undercut this new charge:
  • The facts of the case are unchanged -- Green still spent unregistered PAC money in a state election
  • There is still no evidence that the contact from the Doyle attorney in any way impacted the actual vote of the three Dem board members
  • There is still no good explanation from the GOP about why the Libertarian board member voted against Green
  • What Doyle's lawyer did was completely legal
But, unfortunately for Doyle, none of that really matters, at least in the short term.

What matters is that the Doyle camp took an issue that was a liability for the Green camp, neutralized it at best and actually made it a liability for itself at worst.

The special interests who gave money to Green's congressional campaign do not need to abide by Wisconsin campaign finance laws, nor do they have any actual interest in Wisconsin issues. Yet, Green was trying to use this money to get elected to run the state of Wisconsin.

The non-partisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (WDC) filed suit against the Green campaign for what it saw as illegal activity. Five members of the state Elections Board, including the one Libertarian member, agreed with the WDC. The only members of the board to disagree were Republicans.

Green chose to fight the action in court rather than give up the cash. At this point, in reality and in the public mindset, the battle was between Congressman Green and the State of Wisconsin, in spite of the fact that the GOP was trying desperately to make it an issue of Doyle attacking Green.

With the release of today's story, though, the Doyle camp fell ass-backwards into the GOP's spin. Now there's direct evidence that this issue isn't just about Green and the State of Wisconsin. And regardless of all the important points raised above, in the public mindset, this issue just became a matter of election year politics rather than simply a matter of law.

Why did the Doyle camp even hire an attorney for this matter? Its response to that question in the JS article was that Green hired a lawyer, so it did, too.


Of course Green hired a lawyer -- he was being brought up on ethics charges!

The Doyle campaign had no business getting involved, whether or not its involvement actually impacted the outcome of the case. It should've just let the issue stand as a fight between Congressman Green and the State of Wisconsin.


Side Note: Gretchen Schuldt raises a good point about the location of the JS article discussed above and another article from today that details how unregistered PAC money isn't the only illegal campaign cash held by the Green Team.

LATE UPDATE: Hear all that noise from the GOP today? It's to drown out stories like this one: "Justice Department: Green Transfer Illegal." I write more about the DOJ brief here.


Blogger Michael J. Mathias said...

I groaned when I saw the story this morning. Doyle should respond by firing the lawyer. Before Noon.

September 21, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Firing the attorney might be a step in the right direction, but it doesn't make up for hiring him in the first place. And there's also ample evidence that the attorney wasn't operating alone.

I think Doyle's best bet is to keep attention on the fact that Green still used unregistered PAC money in a state campaign, along with the most recent revelation that he's also accepted invividual donations beyond the $10,000 maximum.

And if pinned in a corner on this lawyer's activities, Doyle can always respond by pointing to the vote by the Libertarian member on the board -- the GOP is in no position to argue that Burns was under the control of Doyle, which is important because Burns remains the only non-Republican or Democrat on the board to cast a vote, and that vote went against Green.

September 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems rather interesting that there was a concern over violating the open meetings statutes....yep, they stepped in it alright

September 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahh . . . looks like Doyle's attempt to look ethical in spite of all of his pay-for-play issues may bite him in the ass. I liked Doyle four years ago, but never imagined he would be such a dirty politician.

As a side note, I'm amazed at all of the dirty people in his camp that Doyle just happens not to have met. I didn't believe him before, but he's less believable by the day.

September 21, 2006  
Blogger redvest said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

September 21, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Anon 2,

I think you mean "pay-for-play allegations," not "issues." And, as it happens, another of those half-baked allegations just got shot down in court today.

The GOP will argue that the case was thrown out because it was brought too late, not necessarily because it didn't have merit. But that leads to the obvious question, why was the suit brought up so late? What's so special about 2006?

The only ones playing politics in the Kenilworth case is Prism -- I'm sure the Republicans on the state Building Commission, who all voted to cancel Prism's contract, can attest to that.

September 21, 2006  
Blogger Rick Esenberg said...

When you have to place your hopes on the whims of a Libertarian you are in trouble.

Here's one reason he'd vote against Green: From whom do you suppose Libertarians think they can siphon voters? Certainly not the party of government.

September 21, 2006  
Blogger Ben Masel said...

rick: the only Libertarian on the ballot this cycle is running for Treasurer. The goal there is simply to hit the 1% it'll take to keep a ballot line.

September 21, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...


The hopes of the Doyle camp hardly rest with Jacob Burns, and his vote was hardly based on a whim. I also agree with Ben that the fact the Libertarians are only running a candidate for treasurer this year shoots down your theory about why Burns supposedly would want to vote against Green. (Interesting side note that the only people in your theory who aren't politically calculating are the Repubs on the board -- everyone else is just a partisan hack.)

The DOJ laid out a pretty strong case against Green today. We'll see just how strong it is on Monday.

September 21, 2006  

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