Campaign 2010

Oct 27, 2010

Dan Kapanke (WI-03) Pattern of Unethical Behavior

National Republicans’ chosen candidate Dan Kapanke (WI-03) has a long, troubling pattern of unethical behavior.  Kapanke admitted to violating Wisconsin state ethics laws by using his charity as a slush fund to pay off his own debt, he charged Wisconsin taxpayers $38,000 for his campaign event, and he raised taxes on hardworking Wisconsin families while failing to pay taxes himself.

DCCC spokesperson Jennifer Crider said, “Dan Kapanke can’t be trusted to put what’s best for Wisconsin before his own personal benefit.   Dan Kapanke broke ethics laws to use his charity as a slush fund to pay off his debt, and raised taxes on hardworking Wisconsin families while he paid no taxes of his own.  Making matters worse, Dan Kapanke broke the law by using state money to hold a campaign event – leaving taxpayers with a $38,000 bill for his campaign.  The last thing Wisconsin families need in Washington is politician like Dan Kapanke, who is out for himself and thinks he is above the law.”

BACKGROUND:

Dan Kapanke Admitted to Ethics Breach

In August 2010, Kapanke admitted to unintentionally violating state ethics codes by paying off personal debt with money from a charity funded through organizations that employ lobbyists. Kapanke said that the payment to the city of La Crosse for new lighting at the Loggers' baseball park was "inappropriate." Internal Revenue Service records show in June 2009 the foundation paid a $16,930 installment due on a $225,000 loan from the city of La Crosse to the Kapankes for improved lighting at Copeland Park. Kapanke said the charity then believed it complied with IRS allowances for donations made for the "erection or maintenance of public buildings, monuments or works." Any improvements made to the baseball park belong to the city of La Crosse. "If we wanted to hide something we certainly wouldn't hide it on IRS forms," Kapanke said Wednesday. He announced also he'd transferred the nearly $17,000 back to the foundation from La Crosse Loggers Inc. [La Crosse Tribune, 8/26/10]

Days Later... Kapanke Admitted to BIGGER Payment. Days later, Kapanke said he used twice as much money from a charitable foundation to pay off personal debts as had been reported. Kapanke told the Eau Clair Leader-Telegram that the La Crosse Loggers Foundation made two payments totaling about $32,000. [La Cross Tribune, 8/28/10]

Dan Kapanke Used State Resources For Campaign Event, Cost Wisconsin Taxpayers $38,000

In 2009, the Wisconsin Democratic Party filed a suit against Kapanke, charging that his staff improperly coordinated an economic forum in La Crosse because his campaign issued an advisory about it.

The party asked for records regarding the event twice in June but received a response saying that no records existed. The party subsequently sent a letter to the La Crosse County district attorney’s office requesting an investigation. [Associated Press, 8/08/09]

Ethics Official: Kapanke Should Not Have Used Campaign Money for Event

In August 2009, Jonathan Becker of the Government Accountability Board said that Kapanke should not have used campaign money for two economic forums, but doing so was appropriate under the circumstance.

The board would not take action against Kapanke but would fine a state aide who worked at the second campaign-sponsored event. The aide took a vacation day but did not notify the Senate chief clerk beforehand.

Kapanke agreed that he should not have used campaign funds and accepted responsibility for his aide’s failure to ask for vacation time. [Associated Press, 8/13/09]

Top Aide Admitted Personal Email Use for State Work

During testimony for the Democratic Party’s lawsuit, a top aide to Kapanke admitted that she routinely used personal email for state work. The state’s technology services had retrieved some records about the events from a backup that showed emails sent from Kapanke to a personal Yahoo email address.

The aide, Kapanke’s chief of staff since 2006, Rose Smyrski, said that she never received public records training despite being Kapanke’s records custodian and working at the Capitol since 2000. She also testified that she did not check her personal email before responding to the Democratic Party’s records request. [Associated Press, 8/19/09]

Judge Was Ready to Rule Against Kapanke Before Settlement

Dane County Judge Richard Niess said that he considered the Democrats the prevailing party because they would not have received public records without filing the lawsuit, but did not enter a formal judgment. [Associated Press, 8/20/09]

Taxpayers Paid $38,000 Cost of Lawsuit Settlement

In September 2009, the legal settlement included paying $38,000 in legal fees. The following month, Wisconsin taxpayers paid the fees, though Kapanke said that he would reimburse the state.

The settlement also included $100 in damages.  Not releasing the records was an honest mistake, Kapanke said, and he planned to send his staff to proper records training. [Associated Press, 9/11/09; La Crosse Tribune, 10/12/09]

Dan Kapanke Paid No Taxes in 2008

Records requested by the Democratic Party and provided to the Associated Press show Republican Dan Kapanke didn't owe any taxes in 2008.  His spokesman blames losses that year by the baseball team he owns. [WSAW, 9/30/10]

 But Taxes, Spending, Debt Service Went Up Under Kapanke

From 1997 through 2004, Kapanke was the chairman of the Town of Campbell Board. On his watch, the general property tax revenues went up 56 percent, spending went up by 16 percent, and debt service went up by 73 percent. [Source: Town of Campbell Proposed and Adopted Budgets 1997-2004]