Wednesday, April 8, 2009

BREAKING: DA Issues Subpoena in ASA Case

By Lisa Kaiser
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The Milwaukee County Circuit Court has issued a subpoena for the bank records of the controversial political group Advocates for Student Achievement (ASA) and its related organizations.

Assistant DA Bruce Landgraf filed the request for documents on April 1. The court issued the order on April 2. Associated Bank, where ASA’s accounts are held, has already supplied the requested documents.

The subpoena stems from a complaint filed by Citizen Action of Wisconsin against ASA and three candidates for the MPS Board—ReDonna Rodgers, Annie Woodward and David Voeltner.

Citizen Action’s complaint alleged that ASA was “illegally providing contributions” to the three campaigns, and that the contributions were not being reported properly by the three candidates’ committees.

Two ASA candidates—Annie Woodward and David Voeltner—won in Tuesday’s elections.

ASA, which was co-founded by MPS board member Bruce Thompson in 2007 to recruit candidates for yesterday’s election, claims to be divided into two organizations, ASA-MKE, a nonpolitical 501(c)4, and ASA-PAC, a political action committee.

Former MPS board member Joe Dannecker is listed as the registered agent of ASA-MKE and the treasurer of ASA-PAC.

In the affidavit supporting the subpoena, investigator Michael Sandvick found that ASA-MKE is registered as a domestic corporation. Wisconsin law prohibits a domestic corporation from making direct or indirect political contributions. PACs are allowed to contribute limited amounts to campaigns.

Although it was launched in 2007, ASA-PAC had not filed any campaign finance forms with the City of Milwaukee Election Commission until March 27, 2009. The PAC claimed that it had contributed $600—the limit in school board races—to each of its three candidates, and paid $634.24 for two questions on a $11,900 poll conducted by Brilliant Corners. M&I Corp.’s PAC contributed $3,000 to ASA-PAC.

But Sandvick wrote that “I think there is probable cause to believe that ASA-MKE, acting as a corporate entity, provided things of value to the campaigns of candidates for the Milwaukee School board in the form of fund-raising, voter lists and poll results.”

ASA’s bank records could shed light on which entity paid for those activities and contributed to the candidates’ campaigns.

No charges have been filed in the case.

The affidavit draws on public documents, campaign finance forms, and ASA’s Yahoo Group e-mails, which could be accessed by the public. Those e-mails provided details into the workings of ASA.

E-mails indicate that ASA was deeply involved in the candidates’ campaigns. ASA recruited and trained candidates, held weekly “roundtable” meetings with them, supplied voter lists and poll results to its preferred candidates, connected candidates to potential campaign managers, set up a meeting between that candidates and the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors’ PAC, created campaign literature, and asked for donations to the candidates’ campaigns.

Details can be found on the Daily Dose blog, which will continue to cover this story as it unfolds.



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