MADISON - Following is the statement of Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate following the admission of state Sen. Dan Kapanke, candidate for the Third Congressional District, of unlawfully using charitable funds to pay off his personal debts.
"With his admission yesterday of using a charitable foundation as a slush fund to profit from companies that lobby him directly, Dan Kapanke has added to his list of serious ethical transgressions while in office. In his response, Senator Kapanke has repeated a pattern in which he seeks to walk away from responsibility.
No more. Enough is enough. How many more times will he flaunt the laws that apply to the rest of us? Dan Kapanke must resign the Senate and must end his Congressional bid.
Whether it be using taxpayer resources for illegal campaign activities, or unethical relationships with corporations seeking his favor, Sen. Kapanke has shown time and again that he does not believe the rules apply to him. A lawmaker must follow the law. Accordingly, Senator Kapanke should resign."
How Many More Times?
Timeline of Dan Kapanke Scandals.
2001: Dan Kapanke begins his career-long streak of ethical violations with involvement in the caucus scandal.
In the midst of the caucus scandal, Dan Kapanke admitted that as a candidate, he repeatedly called the Senate Republican Caucus for advice on his campaign. Phone records revealed 14 calls from the SRC to Kapanke - meanwhile Kapanke claimed in news reports that he was “not aware” that the SRC was a taxpayer- funded office.
“"If I had questions on particular things, I would just call down there (SRC) and deal with whoever answered the phone," Kapanke said. When asked whether he realized that the Senate Republican Caucus was a taxpayer-funded office, Kapanke replied, "I'm not aware of that."” [Wisconsin State Journal, 5/20/2010]
2006: Senator Kapanke’s legislative aide is fined for stealing a Democratic strategy book and making copies.
John O’Brien, legislative aide to Senator Kapanke, discovered a binder with campaign plans that had been mistakenly left by Sen. Mark Miller. He used a Capitol photocopier to copy the campaign plans he found inside the binder and passed them along to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee. O’Brien was fined by the State Ethics Board for using state resources for campaign purposes.
Kapanke said, "I regret any of this ever happening." [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12/5/2006]
2007: Senator Kapanke is accused of profiting from lobbyist contributions through his baseball team.
Kapanke was investigated to determine whether he broke a law that prohibits legislators from acting on an issues in which they or members of their immediate families have a “substantial financial interest.” Kapanke, the owner of the La Crosse Loggers, received advertising and sponsorship payments from several companies that lobby legislators in the Capitol, including Ashley Furniture. Ashley Furniture sponored a section of the Loggers’ field and spent $73,000 lobbying in favor of a rent-to own industry bill - a bill that Kapanke voted in favor of.
It was determined that Kapanke was in compliance with state ethics laws because he established a charitable foundation to accept contributions from such organizations.
“"I don't see any problem, as long as the money is not going to benefit me," Kapanke said. "It's going to benefit the community." [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3/27/2007]
2008: Senator Kapanke uses his position to strong arm the Department of Commerce into relaxing state building code requirements on his baseball team.
In 2008, updated state building codes required Senator Kapanke to install several additional women’s toilets at the baseball park where Kapanke’s team plays. Kapanke called the Department of Commerce, and his complaint was passed up the chain of command. Just over a month later, the local buildings chief signed off on a proposal to allow the park to rent porta-potties instead of complying with state building code, saving Kapanke over $200,000 according to news reports.
“Kapanke realized the latest state building code required many more women's toilets than he was counting on. So the first-term lawmaker called up the state Department of Commerce's La Crosse office to complain about the added expense, according to state records… Kapanke now is saving major bucks under a deal approved by the Commerce Department just weeks after he raised a stink over the agency's potty rules.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 7/13/2008]
2009: Another Kapanke aide is fined for campaigning on state time, this time for his Congressional campaign.
Kapanke aide Hannah Huffman organized two economic forums paid for by Senator Kapanke’s campaign. She failed to take proper vacation time in advance, but attempted to mark the days as vacation after the fact, in violation of state ethics law.
2009: Taxpayers foot the bill for Senator Kapanke’s ethics violation, to the tune of $38,000.
In 2009, after two months of asking Kapanke for records from his office about economic forums he had arranged, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin sued Kapanke in Dane County Circuit Court. Kapanke’s office insisted that they did not have any records related to the requests, but son after the law-suit was filed, the records in question surfaced. In court, Kapanke admitted that he violated state open records law; the state paid a fine and the State Party’s legal fees on his behalf.
“State taxpayers will spend $38,000 on legal bills after state Sen. Dan Kapanke (R-La Crosse) acknowledged he violated the state's open records law.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/11/2009]
2010: Senator Kapanke admits to illegally using charitable funds for personal purposes.
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin filed a complaint alleging that Senator Kapanke violated state ethics laws by using funds from a charitable organization controlled by his family to pay back part of a debt owed by his business. Kapanke established the charity with the express purpose of receiving and disbursing contributions from organizations that employ lobbyists to prevent the funds from benefiting him personally. Kapanke quickly admitted that the personal use of these funds was illegal.
“A Republican state senator and baseball team owner acknowledged Wednesday that a charity controlled by his family had improperly used payments from groups that employ lobbyists to benefit himself and the team.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/25/2010]