An ethics complaint filed by One Wisconsin Now against Sen. Leah Vukmir has resulted in a warning to the group from the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. OWN crowed about the complaint in a release in September. In response to the complaint earlier this month, the Ethics Commission deemed it “frivolous,” and dismissed the allegations.
OWN’s executive director, Scot Ross, filed the complaint after Vukmir announced that her campaign fundraising team included Lisa Mauer, Chair of the Board of Directors of WEDC, which Ross claimed was a violation of Wisconsin State Statute 19.45(3):
“Leah Vukmir, with her position on the Joint Finance Committee and in the State Senate majority, has influence over the operations of WEDC and the ability to help or hurt the organization. Naming the head of the WEDC board, a state government entity she helps oversee, to the campaign finance team raising money to fuel her political ambitions isn’t just in bad taste, it may very well be in violation of the law.”
The press release continued:
Vukmir has great influence over the budgets, operations and activities of state agencies, including WEDC. As a member of Vukmir’s team shaking down down donors for campaign cash, Mauer is in a position to deliver items of value, namely campaign cash, to remain in the state legislator’s good graces and help fuel her federal political ambitions.
The statute reads:
“No person may offer or give to a state public official, directly or indirectly, and no state public official may solicit or accept from any person, directly or indirectly, anything of value if it could reasonably be expected to influence the state public official’s vote, official actions or judgment, or could reasonably be considered as a reward for any official action or inaction on the part of the state public official. This subsection does not prohibit a state public official from engaging in outside employment.
However, the Ethics Commission responded to Ross’ complaint by dismissing it and calling it “frivolous.” The Commission warned One Wisconsin Now that once deemed “frivolous” the commission could fine the complainant for any costs incurred in pursuing the investigation:
“After reviewing the materials presented, the Commission made a finding of no reasonable suspicion that a violation of the law occurred as to the allegations. As required by WIS. STAT. § 19.49(2)(b)3. Your complaint has been dismissed. The Commission also made a finding that by a preponderance of the evidence, that this complaint is frivolous in nature. The Commission is not ordering any forfeiture regarding this complaint, but does issue a warning to the complainant, that pursuant to WIS. STAT. § 19.49(2)(b)1m., when a complaint is found to be frivolous the Commission may order the complainant to forfeit the greater of $500 or the expenses incurred by the Commission in investigating the complaint.”