Prosecutors laid out the heart of their corruption case against Rep. Scott Jensen on Monday, calling the former Assembly speaker's chief political operative to the stand to describe how Jensen personally directed the secretive effort to use state staff to run campaigns.
"I would get assignments from ... my boss, Mr. Jensen," former Assembly Republican Caucus director Jason Kratochwill testified in Dane County Circuit Court on Monday at the start of the second week of testimony on misconduct charges against the Waukesha Republican and former legislative aide Sherry Schultz.
Several former caucus workers have already testified that, in the months leading up to an election, the legislative service agency became a full-fledged campaign machine.
But Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard on Monday sought to show Jensen's hand in nearly everything the caucus did, from recruiting candidates, providing them with campaign staff, raising money -- even setting up photo shoots.
From May through November 2000, Kratochwill said, Jensen was involved "almost on a daily basis" in what went on at the caucus and the officially separate -- but in practice indistinguishable -- privately funded Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, which Kratochwill also headed and Jensen chaired.
Jensen never suggested setting up separate offices for RACC, which ran its operations out of the same state-funded office as the caucus. The campaign committee's letterhead didn't even include a phone number, since the main number callers typically used was that of the caucus, Kratochwill said.
Although he spent nearly all his time in the months before the 2000 election working for campaigns, Kratochwill, who was earning $70,000 a year including benefits when he resigned in October 2001, said he was never paid any salary by RACC.
Moreover, Kratochwill said, Jensen knew requests by caucus employees to take partial leaves from their state jobs of 25 to 50 percent to work on campaigns -- which picked up the rest of their salaries for that period -- understated the actual time they were away from their state jobs.
"It was always full time," Kratochwill said of the campaign work staffers did, adding that the leave requests were filed for "appearance."
Kratochwill, who directed the caucus from February 1999 through September 2001, said Jensen hired him in part to help build the GOP's majority in the Assembly.
He said a big part of his job involved recruiting promising candidates and then walking them through the steps of registering with the state Elections Board, supplying them with lists of likely supporters, helping them hone their message, assigning staff and setting fundraising targets.
Staffers helped set up and even acted in campaign commercials.
Schultz, an aide to former Rep. Steve Foti, orchestrated the flow of campaign dollars from an office in the caucus, he said.
Jensen, former Majority Leader Steve Foti, and former Assistant Majority Leader Bonnie Ladwig -- known in the caucus as the Big Three -- received regular updates, and Jensen gave frequent direction, said Kratochwill, who testified in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
On cross examination by Jensen's attorney, Stephen Meyer, Kratochwill acknowledged that normal legislative activity dries up after lawmakers adjourn in the spring of an election year, and that staffers routinely work long hours on legitimate state work during the rest of the year.
Kratochwill also agreed with Meyer's general characterization of the caucus office, which helped legislators write press releases and newsletters, as having "the same purpose and end as anything done by the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee.
"The ultimate goal of legitimate legislative work is to get the individual legislator re-elected?" Meyer asked, to which Kratochwill replied, "Yes."
The caucus offices -- one each for the Democrats and Republicans in the Assembly and Senate -- were dissolved in 2002.
Schultz's attorney, Stephen Morgan, will continue with his cross examination of Kratochwill today.