GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) – Recently unsealed documents reveal new information about how many times Mayor Jim Schmitt’s campaign altered records after three city council members questioned the legality of some campaign donations.
Mayor Schmitt is charged with three misdemeanor counts, including Election Fraud. He’s accused of violating the state’s campaign finance laws while running for mayor between 2011 and 2015.
In 2015, special investigator Bruce Landgraf, acting upon a request to investigate the mayor’s campaign donations, filed subpoenas for bank records held in the name of Friends of Jim Schmitt.
An affidavit unsealed this week shows investigators found 20 instances in which the campaign received donations from a single donor that exceeded the $1,040 legal limit. Eighteen of those returns were amended after allegations about possible illegal donations were made public. Two of the donors received refunds for the excess contributions.The affidavit states that these actions were taken in response to public criticism.
In the cases of the amended records, Landgraf alleges that instead of issuing a check to the donor to refund the excess amount, the committee “re-labeled” the donation as coming from a different person, in many cases a spouse of the original donor. Law requires a campaign to return the original donation and then accept new funds from the new contributor.
In one instance, between Dec. 2011 and Dec. 2013, the Schmitt campaign received a $1,750 from a single donor. Instead of returning the excess funds, the campaign altered the records to show $1,000 came from the donor’s wife. Landgraf remarked that the change appeared to have been made with “white out.”
In addition to the individual donations, the campaign also received donations from corporations, which is prohibited under state law. A donation from the business Cantilever Studios, LLC, was listed as coming from “C.S.” The campaign reported that the initials stand for Carl Schmitt, who is the mayor’s brother. However, the affidavit claims those donations are consistent with Cantilevers Studio, LLC.
The affidavit also reports the campaign received donations from Political Action Committees that exceeded the $780 legal limit.
During the investigation, four checks worth $650 were found that were not included on any campaign finance reports, according to the affidavit.
In an instance of “irregular activity”, the affidavit claims two checks were written to Scott Wochos, not the Friends of Jim Schmitt, with “Mayor Schmitt Lunch” on the memo line. The affidavit suggests Wochos purchased a table at the fundraiser lunch and was “reimbursed” by individual donors.
“I do note, as an aside however, that in my review of campaign finance account records over the past ten years, I cannot recall ever seeing this type of check ‘sign-over’,” Landgraf states in the document.
Landgraf has said that Mayor Schmitt intends to plead guilty to the misdemeanors as part of a plea agreement. He would avoid jail time and probation, but be forced to dissolve his campaign committee and donate $26,000 of the excess donations to the School Fund.
Schmitt has claimed any irregularities were not intentional, and he says he intends to continue serving as mayor of Green Bay.
Schmitt’s initial court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 5.