Where’s the Money Coming From?

A Look at Who is Funding 3rd District Aldermanic Candidates

by Sonya Jongsma Knauss

Candidates can — and usually do — insist that the people who give them money have little or no influence on the decisions they would make or the agenda they would pursue in City Hall. After all, Common Council members are supposed to work for the good of their constituents and the city. But a look at who’s funding candidates can tell you something about who thinks the candidate supports their agenda. Supporters of both candidates for the 3rd District position have tried to implicate their opponents in “guilt by association”-type assertions about who gives each candidate money. While it can be argued that Ald. Mike D’Amato has had much more time (eight years) to amass a broad spectrum of supporters, the fact remains that his contributors really run the gamut. From the “little old lady who recently wrote out a $10 check” to his campaign, to the East Side homemaker who gave the maximum allowable contribution ($416), to small business owners and labor unions, records show that D’Amato has a diverse and varied base of support. His $98,000 campaign fund, down from over $100,000 at one point, also includes contributions from developers such as the Mandel Group, New Land Enterprises, Julilly Kohler, Andy Busalacchi, and others. Wehner, who gave money to D’Amato’s campaign in 2002, had received about $3,200 in donations before purchasing large billboards on Center Street and E. North Avenue and incurring other expenses to bring the total to $950.66, based on reports that had been filed by March 26. Admittedly she has had less time to get out her message and fewer opportunities to meet with constituents across the big district in which D’Amato has attended, by his count, over 1500 neighborhood meetings. Wehner, who owns several rental properties and lives in the East Side duplex she rents, has received money from family members and a variety of business people, including several East Side and Riverwest landlords. Some members of this particular group stand out for histories of troublesome property code violations. These include Tim Olson, Sanford Parsons (38 violations, with slow and partial compliance, on a property in the 700 block of E. Locust Street), and David Keren (12 violations, most of which have been complied with, on two houses he owns east of Humboldt Boulevard on Wright Street), among other East Side landlords. Marty Collins, head of the city’s Department of Neighborhood Services, which enforces code standards and inspects buildings, says having such a high number of code violations is not the norm for homes in Milwaukee. “We don’t have that many inspectors out there,” he said. “We get a ton of direct complaints from tenants, so when we get a call, we follow up on it.” Editor’s Note: Due to time constraints and the inaccessibility of some files at the Election Commission (one visit featured a long wait while files and parts of files were found in different parts of the office, and during that visit records for the 6th District Aldermanic 2004 campaign filings could not even be located!), this report features only 3rd District candidates. If this bothers you as much as it does us, please ask your alderperson and the Election Commission to support open and transparent government by requiring online public access, in easily readable spreadsheet form, for all candidates in local elections. You can reach the Election Commission at 286-3491. City Hall can be reached at 286-2221.