A former Democratic state Assembly candidate who was accused in campaign fliers of violating campaign finance laws called the documents—and the chain of events that led to their creation—”shady and disgusting.”
In at least two different mailers sent out before the election Nov. 6, Brittany Keyes was criticized for “shady finances.” One ad read: “Dodging Ethics Laws in Her Campaign? ... When it comes to corruption, Brittany Keyes isn’t the cure we need.”
Keyes, the Democrat beaten by incumbent Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, in the 31st Assembly District race, was indeed under investigation by the Wisconsin Ethics Commission, The Gazette reported last week.
The investigation stemmed from an ethics complaint the Republican Party of Wisconsin filed in October.
The party’s complaint alleged Keyes and 22 other Democrats failed to disclose in-kind campaign contributions from One Vote at a Time, a liberal political action committee that provided free video ads for candidates, in their Sept. 25 campaign finance reports and that those contributions exceeded the state’s legal donation limit.
On Dec. 11, the ethics commission dismissed the complaint and concluded there was no reasonable suspicion Keyes broke the law.
Now, Keyes is sounding the alarm on the mailers, saying that the Republican Party filing a complaint to trigger an investigation seemed like a “well-thought-out” tactic designed to provide the GOP a line of attack to use against Keyes in the campaign.
She said the fliers began appearing the week before the election and that the timing left her campaign with little time to provide an official response. She said she didn’t have the funding or resources to develop an effective counter.
Keyes, who was a first-time candidate, said there isn’t much she can legally do to combat the complaint or the mailers. But she hopes publicizing the situation will shed light on the campaign process and inspire others to seek public office.
“I was shocked and frankly disgusted that my opponent and the (Republican) party would go that low,” Keyes said Thursday. “They had to have felt threatened to play that type of card and spend that much money. It was disappointing. And unfortunately ... it could’ve been effective in their overall strategy.”
The Republican Party would not comment for this story. A Loudenbeck staffer said Loudenbeck was not involved in the complaint, and she did not respond to a request for comment about the mailers.
Daniel Carlton, the Wisconsin Ethics Commission administrator, said he could not comment on ethics complaints.
Keyes said the Republican Party has deployed similar campaign tactics in the past, and she hopes other campaigns will foster positive messages in the future and shift away from negative attack ads.
“The more people know, the more understanding there will be when they encounter negative mailers,” Keyes said. “Even though it was tough, we need more good people running who won’t stoop to those standards. ... This maybe inspires some people who are ready to run with integrity to put their name in the hat.”