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Reality Check: Is State Government For Sale?

Published On: Aug 28 2006 10:17:13 AM CDT
Updated On: Aug 28 2006 10:43:41 AM CDT

The latest attack ad in the spirited race for governor compares state government under Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle to an auction house. The ad implies state contracts are up to the highest bidder.

But, a WISC-TV analysis of the ad, showed the claims "need clarification" and one is "misleading."

The Republican Governors Association ad starts with the voice of an auctioneer coupled with pictures of rows of cows.

"I got $20,000, do I hear more?," says the auctioneer. An announcer adds, "It's almost like an auction."

The group picks up where other ads have left off by attacking Doyle over convicted former state employee Georgia Thompson.

"A top aide to Doyle got a felony conviction for steering a state contract to Doyle campaign contributors," said the announcer in the ad.

This claim "needs clarification," according to a WISC-TV analysis. Georgia Thompson wasn't a "top aide to Governor Doyle." She was hired when Republican Scott McCallum was governor. Thompson worked in the Department of Administration.

But, there's no record of any direct contact between Thompson and Doyle. However, the ad points out correctly, she was convicted of steering a state travel contract to a Doyle contributor.

Milwaukee-based Adelman Travel executives gave Doyle $20,000 for his campaign. Prosecutors said she steered the contract because it would please her bosses. However, there was never any evidence she was told by top level administrators or the governor to give the deal to Adelman.

Here's the next claim. The ad announcer points to a February Associated Press report that said seven companies donated to Doyle's re-election around the same time they received no-bid contracts.

"They gave Doyle $30,000, they got $36 million in contracts," said the announcer in the ad. This claim needs clarification, said WISC-TV.

Of the $36 million, most of it was with one contract, $29 million to Oracle to renew computer software contracts with the state. The state has been using the software and signing similar contracts since at least 1994 under both Govs. Tommy Thompson and Scott McCallum.

A WISC-TV analysis also found there have been no charges in any of those cases. In fact, there are no known investigations into any of those seven contracts. This, despite what the ad goes on to say.

"Now, the state Ethics Board investigates the widening Doyle scandals," said the announcer in the ad.

WISC-TV finds this claim "misleading."

Ethics Board legal counsel Jonathan Becker said, "No, that's not an accurate statement."

Becker said the board is looking into one case in which Philadelphia-based attorney Richard Schiffrin gave $10,000 to Doyle after meeting with a top Doyle aide. Schiffrin wanted state business, but didn't get the contract.

The Ethics Board is looking to see if any promises were made in exchange for campaign donations. A decision is expected in the next week or two.

But, WISC-TV found, to say the Ethics Board is investigating a "widening" scandal is inaccurate.

The ad is running in Madison and other media markets in the area at least through this week.

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