Middleton School Board Pres. Promoted Burke Campaign with Gov’t E-mail

The president of the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School Board has been found using her official government e-mail address to promote the Mary Burke for Governor campaign. Burke is a Democrat running against Governor Scott Walker, the Republican incumbent. The news first emerged Thursday afternoon on the Mark Belling radio show in Milwaukee.

Ellen Lindgren ran as a Democratic candidate for state Assembly in 2012. She is the president of the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School Board just outside of Madison in Dane County. According to e-mail records, Lindgren used her government account, ellenl@mcpasd.k12.wi.us, to send an official Burke campaign e-mail to fellow educators.

The campaign e-mail, which includes the disclosure “Paid for by Burke for Wisconsin,” invites recipients to attend a January 22nd networking event with Burke at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Milwaukee. It appears the e-mail targets educators, explaining that attendees can, “hear Mary’s ideas about the future of our great state and her vision for our public schools,” at the event.

Lindgren forwarded the event invitation with the message: “This is a terrific opportunity to get to know a candidate for governor, and I hope you will come.”

It is unknown just how many educators and school board members got the e-mail from Lindgren; though it is clear that some recipients who received the political solicitation were outside of the school district she leads.

An archived campaign biography quotes Lindgren saying she moved to Wisconsin over 30 years ago and “was impressed with the quality of clean, open government” found in the state.

Among the many rules and regulations governing that “clean, open government” is a ban on elected and government officials using government resources – including e-mail accounts – to promote political candidates or campaigns. A long time supporter of Democratic candidates and a candidate for both state and local office herself, Lindgren should have known that what she was doing was against ethics and campaign laws.

When a Republican government employee in Milwaukee County was found to have sent political campaign e-mails while working on government time, prosecutors filed charges against the woman. A one year jail sentence and $2,000 fine were swapped in that case for a year of probation.

Lindgren is a long-time financial supporter of Democratic and liberal candidates. In 2010 she gave the maximum contribution of $500 to Green Party Assembly candidate Ben Manski. Democratic candidates – including her own 2012 campaign – have benefited from her over $10,500 in contributions to Democratic political efforts.

In 2011, Lindgren helped lead a media conference call with Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate. On that call she strongly condemned Governor Walker’s budget proposals at the time.

What happens next to the liberal school board president now appears to rest in the hands of local prosecutors and the state Government Accountability Board, which administers ethics and campaign laws.