Democratic bill would require state officials running for federal office to reimburse taxpayers
By Jessie Opoien, The Capital Times
A pair of Wisconsin Democratic legislators plans to introduce a bill that would require state elected officials in Wisconsin to report and reimburse the state for expenses incurred while pursuing or considering a run for national office.
Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, and Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, say their bill would require timely reporting and reimbursement of expenses, leading to more transparency for taxpayers and more accountability for elected officials.
Under the proposal, any state elected official running or considering a run for federal office would be required to submit a report to the state Government Accountability Board including details like the candidate's travel itinerary and an itemized list of expenses including travel and security costs.
Candidates would be required to reimburse any costs incurred by taxpayers within 30 days of filing the report, with a $500 fine for each unpaid day beyond the 30-day window.
"This bill is about accountability to taxpayers, being fully upfront with the people of the state and making sure precious tax dollars aren't being used to bankroll a presidential campaign or anyone's federal campaign," Shankland said.
The bill's motivation comes from Gov. Scott Walker's presidential bid, which has been official since July but unofficial for much longer.
"Gov. Scott Walker is more difficult to find in Wisconsin than the Milwaukee lion," Hansen said, referencing a lion-like creature rumored to have been spotted several times in the Milwaukee area this summer.
About three months before Walker officially declared his candidacy, his political nonprofit, Our American Revival, said it would reimburse the state for all of his political travel costs associated with the group, including transportation, lodging and security.
"The campaign is paying for travel costs for the governor and his security when he travels for the campaign," Walker spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in an email.
The governor's administration has not yet released how much has been reimbursed for Walker's trips so far, or how much might still be owed.
In addition to traveling throughout the country, introducing himself to Republican primary voters, Walker has also visited several countries this year — most recently Israel, France, Germany and Spain.
Shankland said taxpayers shouldn't have to ask "for months and months" to find out whether costs are being paid back.
"We deserve to know where the governor's going on the taxpayer dollar," she said.
While Walker's presidential campaign would be affected by the bill, Shankland and Hansen noted that it would also apply to state officials interested in running for Congress.