Sen. Cullen giving most campaign money to charity

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Frank Schultz
Friday, January 31, 2014

JANESVILLE—Several local charities will benefit from campaign contributions made to Sen. Tim Cullen.

The Democrat from the town of Janesville in December transferred most of the money left in his campaign fund—$40,000—to the Janesville-based Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin.

Cullen is retiring from the Senate after the fall elections, so he had to decide what to do with $47,000 in unspent contributions.

The law allows candidates to donate the money to other candidates, and Cullen made a $2,500 donation to Mary Burke, who is running to unseat Gov. Scott Walker.

“I believe in her. … I just really think we ought to have a different governor, so I went ahead and did that,” Cullen said.

Cullen also made a $250 contribution to One Wisconsin Now.

Cullen hasn't decided what to do with the remainder of the campaign fund.

The law allows the money to remain in the account indefinitely. Some politicians leave it there in case they decide to run again, but Cullen said he has no such intention.

The money also can be donated to a state fund for schools or returned to the donors Cullen said.

Cullen limited donations in his last campaign to $250, and most checks were for $25 or $50 or $100, he said, so it would take a lot of effort to determine where it came from and to return it, he said.

Giving the money to a lot of other politicians might not sit well with contributors who wanted it to go to Cullen, Cullen said.

So Cullen decided to donate to charity. He will decide later how the $40,000 will be spent. For now, it's in the hands of the community foundation, which means it can be used only for charity, he said.

The foundation administers a wide variety of charitable funds. Some of Cullen's money will go to the two major providers of food and other assistance to poor people in Janesville and Beloit, ECHO and Caritas, he said.

Also on Cullen's list is Healthnet, the free clinic in Janesville, and the Janesville Multicultural Teacher Opportunities Scholarship, which Cullen established to pay tuition for minority students from Janesville who agree to become teachers and return to Janesville to teach.

Cullen said he plans to set up a foundation to help children from dysfunctional homes and to raise money for a government internship program he and his wife, Barbara, established about 10 years ago.  

When announcing his retirement, Cullen said he believed he could do more good as a private citizen than as a senator. He is reputed to have been an effective fundraiser for a number of local causes, but he said the rules for elected officials have kept him from doing that work.

Cullen said it feels good to be transitioning out of government. He looks forward to setting his own schedule. Among his plans are work on a book about governing that he started some years ago.

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