Mr. Thomas Frenn
Petrie & Stocking
111 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Oct. 21, 2006
Dear Mr. Frenn,
Thank you for your letter of Oct. 17. I am assuming the letter threatening a lawsuit really is from you although it is unsigned. Please correct me if I am mistaken.
In your letter, you allege that I have accused State Sen. Tom Reynolds of “violations of the Election Law.” That is simply inaccurate, as you know.
It’s extremely unfortunate that Mr. Reynolds would use a lawyer and threats of expensive, time-consuming litigation to try to intimidate a constituent into silence. Debate – even the raucous, untidy kind – is part of the democratic process. If Mr. Reynolds can’t even explain his utility bills without getting a lawyer involved to move his lips for him, then it is no wonder that he avoids even the formal, staged debates of a campaign.
For your edification and for your files here is a rundown of what I wrote and when I wrote it.
On Sept. 23, I wrote that the senator charged at least part of utility bills for his campaign headquarters to his campaign, and that his campaign finance report listed his home address as his headquarters. I wrote:
“Hope none of that went to keep his kiddies warm at night. That would be a lot like converting campaign funds to personal use, which would be a distinct no-no.”
I also wrote:
“It could very well be that Reynolds is not charging the full cost of his utilities to his campaign, but he needs to explain how he separates his family's utility bills from his campaign headquarters' utility bills. A guy who literally poses for holy pictures can't be keeping his family warm with campaign funds.”
There is no accusation of illegal activity. The posting received the following comments from Reynolds’ campaign adviser, Robert Dohnal, which I posted in full:
Reynolds must report any use of his printing machines as campaign expenditures. His printing machines run on electricty so that he must allocate the use for campaign literature and fundraising or he would be in violation of election laws.
His campaign headquarters has nothing to do with his printing machines. They are where they are and he doesn't have to list their location, but must itemize their use for campaign and fundraising materials. The left cannot debate the issues cause they lose on them so they always resort to vicious personal smears.
It is irrelevant where the machines are located, the electricty and use has to be logged for any campaign or fundraising for which they are used.
Since Reynolds is constantly using them for fundraisng letters, invites to other events that cannot be state business he must report that use otherwise he would get ited by the state. When these things come up he confers with the election and ethics board..Wwhenever the liberals cannot debate the real issues of education, taxes, immigration, transportation they resort to vicious personal smears.
Welcome to their club Gretchen.
I also received and posted a message that said Reynolds’ campaign headquarters really is behind 9500 W. Schlinger Ave. As the message was signed only “Anonymous,” I do not know who sent it.
On Sept. 26, I posted a graphic of Reynolds’ campaign finance report listings for his utility payments, showing that he many were for his campaign office or campaign headquarters.
“Here is how the Reynolds' campaign described on campaign finance reports utility bills paid with his campaign fund since 2002. His backers now say the bills were related to printing costs. Hmmm....”
On Oct. 15, after the State Democratic Campaign Committee filed an Elections Board complaint, I wrote about the topic again.
Tom Reynolds used his campaign funds to pay utility bills for the "campaign headquarters" in his home, according to Reynolds' own campaign finance filings.
Bob Dohnal, Reynolds disciple and publisher of The Conservative Digest, said the bills were for Reynolds' print shop, not for his home, despite what Reynolds said in his campaign filing (and I don't think you are supposed to fib on those).
The State Democratic Campaign Committee sent out letters to Reynolds' supporters telling them of Reynolds' creative use of their money to heat his home. Reynolds then issued a statement suggesting that the utility payments were for his home, but just for the campaign headquarters part of it:
“The State Senate Democratic Campaign Committee comprised of: Chairperson, Judy Robson, Treasurer, Mark Miller and Executive Director, Matt Swentkowfske published the attached letter. The letter, with actual knowledge of the falsity of the statement, by the authors accuse me of violating state statute by using campaign funds for paying my private utility bills. The letter acknowledges that the authors know of my use of my residential property for my campaign headquarters. However, the authors go on to say that I pay my home utility bill from my campaign account which is a violation of State law. The letter also informs the Reynolds’ supporters that I am using the hard earned money of supporters and contributors to my campaign illegally “to pad Tom Reynolds own pocket.”
Reynolds demanded an immediate retraction and apology. You're going to be waiting a while for that one, Tom.
Again, there is no accusation on my part of campaign law violations.
As for storyhill.net: the only story on the topic that appeared on that web site is a rather straightforward account of Mr. Lewis Rosser’s assertion that a complaint regarding the utility issue may be filed with the State Elections Board. The story notes that “It is illegal to use campaign funds for non-campaign purposes,” but does not accuse Reynolds of doing so. The story also contains this:
Robert Dohnal, publisher of The Conservative Digest and a close ally of Reynolds, said the payments actually were to cover the costs of electricity used to run printing equipment for campaign and other materials.
"It is irrelevant where the machines are located, the electricty (sic) and use has to be logged for any campaign or fundraising for which they are used," Dohnal wrote in an e-mail to the blog Milwaukee Rising.* "Since Reynolds is constantly using them for fundraisng (sic) letters, invites to other events that cannot be state business he must report that use otherwise he would get ited (sic) by the state. When these things come up he confers with the election and ethics board.. Wwhenever (sic) the liberals cannot debate the real issues of education, taxes, immigration, transportation they resort to vicious personal smears."
That is pretty much everything I’ve written on this topic, except for a follow-up posting after the Journal Sentinel ran a story on Oct. 20. That posting reads as follows:
So is State Sen. Tom Reynolds' campaign headquarters at his home or at his rental property? It certainly seems, from this a.m.'s story in the JS, that it is a building behind his rental property.
Reynolds, the paper says, maintains that the utility bills listed on his campaign finance report are for one of two buildings he owns next door to his home that he uses almost exclusively for campaign business.
Later, the story continues:
Reynolds said the utility bills are for an outbuilding behind rental property he owns at 9500 W. Schlinger Ave. in West Allis that has a separate meter from those of his home and the main rental building. The campaign address is listed as his home, he said, so his renters don't receive that mail.
So is Reynolds' campaign headquarters at 9430 W. Schlinger Ave., as Reynolds (R-West Allis) says on his campaign finance statements, or 9500 W. Schlinger Ave.?
The finance report that Reynolds is required to file contains this statement: "I certify that I have examined this report and to the best of my knowledge and belief it is true, correct and complete."
So, a few questions if the Reynolds' campaign headquarters really is 9500 W. Schlinger Ave.
Does not reporting the correct address of your campaign headquarters count as failing to report accurately? Is there a "it's Ok if it isn't all true" card if your campaign headquarters is near your house? Would it still be OK if it were a mile away? Two miles? If Reynolds is required to report utility costs, as his lawyer claims (he also claims the HQ and Reynolds' home are on the same property), why wouldn't he be required to claim the value of the rent for his campaign HQ?
Although your allegations are clearly without merit, I am willing to videotape Mr. Reynolds’ explanations of his utility bills and his campaign headquarters address and post up to four minutes of the video, for free, on the storyhill.net web site. I am also willing to post, free of charge, the documentation that Mr. Reynolds has to support his utility bill explanation.
I am, by the way, unsure of why you copied your letter to the Story Hill Neighborhood Association, which has absolutely nothing to do with any of this. It appears that you and Mr. Reynolds would like to ensure that all members of the association know that he is willing to threaten people with lawsuits. Are you trying to intimidate an entire neighborhood, rather than just one lone individual? The dissemination of your threat letter to my neighbors is simply a cheap, shameful tactic. The residents of Story Hill, whether they be Democrats or Republicans, are unlikely to be cowed into silence by the likes of Sen. Reynolds or you.
You also accuse me, in a rather gratuitous comment, of “poor judgment and unprofessionalism.” As long as you brought it up, I feel much the same way about your performance as a member of the Milwaukee Public Museum Board as it failed to provide necessary financial oversight before scandal struck. I guess we are even on that score.
You also write: “…you are obviously doing this for the purpose of trying to defeat Mr. Reynolds in the upcoming election.” Since I am not running against Mr. Reynolds, it would be really, really hard for me to defeat him. I think Mr. Jim Sullivan is the one seeking to defeat Mr. Reynolds.
Please contact me at your earliest convenience to arrange a videotaped interview with Mr. Reynolds and to provide me with the documentation supporting Mr. Reynolds assertions re. his utility bills at 9430 W. Schlinger Ave. or 9500 W. Schlinger Ave.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Cc: Story Hill Neighborhood Association