An Executive at the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Company faces felony charges, after officials say he illegally reimbursed his employees for making campaign contributions. Government Accountability Board Director Kevin Kennedy says investigators focused on 11 donations totaling almost $54,000 that William Gardner reimbursed his employees for making.
The majority of those went to Governor Scott Walker’s campaign fund, while contributions also went to former Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan and the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee. Most have been returned or donated to charity.
Prosecutors say Gardner is expected to plead guilty to both felony charges, avoiding jail time. However, the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Company will have to pay a $166,900 civil forfeiture and seven employees will have to pay $250 forfeitures.
The investigation was carried out by GAB and the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office. Assistant Milwaukee County DA Bruce Langford says it was launched after a tip from Gardner’s ex-girlfriend, who reported the contributions to election officials because of a domestic dispute.
Kennedy says these types of donation schemes are difficult to catch without outside help. Officials hope this case will encourage others to come forward, especially if they feel they were pressured by an employer to donate to a political campaign.