An ethics complaint filed against the campaign of former 31st Assembly District candidate Brittany Keyes and a slate of Wisconsin Democrats was dismissed last week after the Wisconsin Ethics Commission found “no reasonable suspicion” of campaign finance violations.
The Republican Party of Wisconsin filed the complaint with the commission in October. It alleged Keyes, 22 other Democratic candidates and One Vote at a Time, a liberal political action committee, failed to disclose in-kind campaign contributions during the 2018 general election.
In-kind contributions are “gifts of goods or services,” which can include consulting, private polling and certain kinds of campaign advertising, according to the Federal Elections Commission.
One Vote produced free ads for 23 Democratic campaigns. The complaint states that those campaigns were in violation of Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws because One Vote’s services exceeded the state’s corporate contribution limit and were not reported in the candidates’ September 2018 finance reports.
According to Wisconsin statutes, political action committees and individuals may not contribute more than $1,000 to an Assembly candidate and $2,000 to a state Senate candidate.
In a statement after the complaint was filed in October, Republican Party Executive Director Mark Morgan wrote: “What these Democrats are doing is illegally circumventing campaign finance law to advance their political fortunes. These candidates cannot be trusted to run honest campaigns and certainly cannot be trusted in office.”
An attorney with the Democratic Party of Wisconsin argued in November that the candidates in the complaint indeed received in-kind campaign contributions from One Vote but after the reporting period for the Sept. 25 campaign finance report.
The attorney wrote that the contributions were properly reported in finance reports due Oct. 29.
The ethics commission dismissed the complaint during a meeting Dec. 11, according to an email obtained by The Gazette.
Keyes, who lost to state Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, in the Nov. 6 general election, called the complaint a “phony campaign tactic” in a press release Friday and wrote that the Republican Party issued campaign literature claiming she was under investigation after filing the complaint.
“The dishonesty is breathtaking,” Keyes wrote.