A liberal attack group is continuing to criticize Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's state plane use, alleging he violated ethics rules and state law during a July trip.
The state Ethics Commission won't take up the allegation, which the Walker campaign denies, until its December meeting.
“It’s a shame when a liberal attack group has such a hard time getting the media to cover its false attacks that it must take sham legal action in order to get publicity," said Brian Reisinger, a spokesman for Walker's campaign. "Our campaign not only paid for all politically arranged travel in accordance with the law, we went above and beyond, paying more to make sure there was no cost to taxpayers.”
One Wisconsin Now argued Walker misused taxpayer dollars by using a state plane for an official visit to Rhinelander on July 17 before filming a campaign commercial in nearby Three Lakes later in the day. Walker hired a private plane to fly him home after filming the commercial, according to an invoice provided by his campaign.
The complaint is the latest in a series of allegations by One Wisconsin Now, which has been hammering Walker over his state plane use for weeks. Last month the group released records showing 869 plane trips taken between September 2015 and April 2018, costing a total of $818,000, arguing that Walker is prioritizing politics and personal convenience over prudent use of public dollars.
“I think he deserves sanctions because he has broken the law," Scot Ross, executive director of the group, said Tuesday. Ross said Walker should reimburse the state half the cost of the flight from Madison to Rhinelander, because that flight enabled him to be in the area to film the political commercial.
"This is about the public trust," said Joanna Beilman-Dulin, the group's research director. "How Scott Walker got a ride home has no bearing on the fact he used state dollars to fly a state plan up to Oneida County to film a commercial."
The Walker campaign and officials in the governor's office have vehemently denied those claims.
Walker visited Nicolet Technical College in Rhinelander on July 17 to tour a criminal justice classroom and a welding room, according to the governor's office. The use of the state plane was for official purposes only, said Walker spokeswoman Amy Hasenberg.
"The goal of the trip was to discuss workforce development and ways the college is helping their students develop skills for high demand jobs," said Hasenberg.
After that visit, Walker went to Three Lakes to film an ad, his campaign confirmed. All costs associated with that commercial were paid for privately, preventing the state plane and pilots from sitting in Rhinelander for an entire day while the governor traveled separately for political purposes, according to the campaign.
Out of an abundance of caution, the campaign decided to charter a private plane, paying more for it, rather than reimbursing the state, according to the campaign.
According to state law, no elected official may use a vehicle or aircraft for any trip which is "exclusively for the purpose of campaigning to support or oppose any candidate" for office, unless it is necessary for security purposes.
But, if a state plane is used in part for campaigning and in part for public purpose, the official should "pay for a portion of the trip attributable to campaigning, but in no case less than 50 percent of the cost of the trip," according to state law.
The state Ethics Commission does not release details of complaints it has received, but considers complaints at its meetings. The board's next meeting is December 4.