Democratic Governor Jim Doyle has repeatedly blocked electoral reform in Wisconsin and threatens to do so again if the state legislature passes a requirement for photo IDs at polling stations. Doyle vetoed the measure once before in 2003 and promises the same this year, even after the fiasco in Milwaukee last November in which an inordinate amount of people registered to vote on Election Day (over 30% of all voters).
Now, however, Wisconsin voters may have another kind of reform in mind after the Journal-Sentinel revealed that executives involved in a controversial health-care merger gave Doyle over $28,000 in donations shortly after he allowed the merger to go through. Critics at the time wondered why Doyle didn’t ask for common-sense economic concessions — and now they think they know:
Gov. Jim Doyle received $28,500 in campaign donations late last year, near the time a major insurance company merger was finalized, from the firms’ top executives, their spouses and former executives, state records show.
The money came on top of more than $47,000 in contributions top officials of the Wellpoint and Anthem insurance companies have given Doyle since his 2002 run for governor. The figure also includes contributions from executives at Blue Cross & Blue Shield United of Wisconsin, which was acquired by Wellpoint in 2003.
The latest batch of cash for Doyle was given just before and after the huge Wellpoint-Anthem merger was finalized Nov. 30. The Doyle administration has been criticized for allowing the merger without getting monetary concessions from the merged company. The $20 billion merger created the largest health insurer in the United States.
The biggest givers were Wellpoint Chairman Leonard Schaeffer and his wife, Pamela, of Westlake Village, Calif. They gave Doyle a combined $18,500 on Dec. 27. Pamela Schaefer’s $10,000 donation – the maximum permitted under Wisconsin law – was her first to Doyle.
Leonard Schaeffer, who earlier had given Doyle $1,500, also hit the maximum with his $8,500 gift. Aside from those donations, the Schaeffers have never given to any Wisconsin state candidates, according to a campaign contribution database dating to 1993 that is maintained by the non-profit Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
These donations do not appear to have broken any laws, although the timing strongly suggests some sort of payoff. All of the money came in November, an odd time to donate to Doyle, who doesn’t run for re-election until 2006. Why would these executives and their families max out their hard-cash donations to Doyle two years before the election? It certainly looks like the timing with which the Schaeffers were concerned have more to do with what Doyle did for them in November 2004 than what Doyle wants to do in November 2006.
Wisconsinites should realize that Jim Doyle doesn’t want to solve electoral fraud in their state. It appears that he wants to continue profiting from it, figuratively and literally. Wisconsin voters need to make plain that they will hold legislators responsible for overriding Doyle’s veto, especially those in Doyle’s own party.