By Scott Bauer
Madison — Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign returned $170,000 in campaign donations it received from the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce political action committee after the PAC was fined $500 by election regulators for giving the money.
The Government Accountability Board levied the fine in February after the state Democratic Party requested an investigation. Walker accepted a $175,000 donation from the MMAC in December.
Walker spokeswoman Ciara Matthews confirmed Tuesday that the money was returned at the request of the PAC that donated it. The GAB told the PAC in a February letter that it needed to get the money back from Walker’s campaign and return it to the donors.
“We initially misunderstood guidance we received from GAB with regard to the use of monies contributed to our PAC during the recall period,” according to a statement attributed to MMAC spokesman Steve Baas. “When the GAB clarified their procedures for treatment of those funds, we immediately responded per their instructions.”
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which tracks campaign donations, first reported the fine and return of the money on its website Tuesday.
State law limits individuals from donating more than $10,000 collectively in a given year, unless the money goes to a recall campaign during the time when it can accept unlimited donations.
The GAB, which enforces the state’s campaign finance laws, sent the MMAC a letter Feb. 23 noting the PAC had reported receiving donations from three people far in excess of the $10,000 limit.
Ted Kellner, founder of Fiduciary Management, gave $100,000 to the PAC. Patrick English, chief executive officer of Fiduciary Management, and William Nasgovitz, an executive with Heartland Advisors, each gave $50,000.
The GAB noted in its letter that each of them could have given the money directly to Walker, who at the time was allowed to accept an unlimited amount. But the PAC, which was not the subject of a recall and therefore prohibited from accepting donations above $10,000 from any one person, could not take that much money, the letter said.
The GAB ordered that it return $90,000 to Kellner, $40,000 to English and $40,000 to Nasgovitz.