RACINE — While voters and candidates are looking toward the Nov. 6 elections, two questions from before the primary have not been answered.
Two campaigns complaints were filed, one against Republican state Assembly candidate Robert Wittke, and one against Democratic congressional candidate Randy Bryce. It is possible that neither complaint will be resolved before the election.
In the race for the 62nd Assembly District seat, currently held by Tom Weatherston, R-Caledonia, former Weatherston aide John Leiber filed a complaint against Wittke a week before the Aug. 14 primary, alleging the campaign literature Wittke was distributing did not clearly and legibly state disclaimer information regarding who paid for the literature.
At the time Wittke dismissed the accusations, saying: “It is amazing to see the dirty tricks a career political candidate will attempt to get their 10 seconds of fame.”
The complaint is being reviewed by the Wisconsin Ethics Commission.
Caroline Russell, ethics specialist for the Commission, said in an email: “Proceedings regarding all complaints, investigations and potential prosecution are confidential, and therefore the Ethics Commission and its staff cannot discuss them with anyone other than the involved parties.”
The chance that this complaint could be resolved before the Nov. 6 elections is slim considering the next meeting of the Ethics Commission is scheduled for Dec. 4, nearly a month after the election.
In the race for Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District seat, currently held by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. — who, like Weatherston, is not seeking re-election — a complaint was filed in July by Democratic candidate Cathy Myers alleging that Bryce used campaign funds for personal use.
Myers filed the complaint with the Federal Elections Commission.
Julia Savel, communications director for the Bryce campaign, said at the time: “Our campaign is focused on talking to voters about the issues in southeastern Wisconsin, and we hope all the candidates in the race for the First Congressional District do the same. We are in construction, not demolition.”
Christian Hilland, deputy press officer for the FEC, said campaign finance law requires that “any commission action on an enforcement matter be kept strictly confidential until the case is resolved.”
“The commission does not have a statutory deadline for completing enforcement matters,” Hilland said in an email. “Each complaint is reviewed on a case-by-case basis and therefore, the length of every case will vary.”
As at the state level with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission, the likelihood that this complaint is resolved before November is not high.
According to the FEC’s fiscal year 2019 Congressional Budget Justification report released in February, in fiscal year 2017 “the commission closed 149 enforcement cases in an average of 15.3 months, which included $1,189,300 in negotiated civil penalties.”
It is uncertain if any penalty will be issued to either Wittke or Bryce.