MADISON -- There are new allegations of government workers campaigning on the taxpayer's dime, but this time, it's Democratic State Senator Spencer Coggs who's in the hot seat. The allegations are that Coggs' office workers campaigned for him while he was running for lieutenant governor.
The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board is looking into the complaint, but won't comment on specifics. Senator Coggs, who is currently running for City of Milwaukee Treasurer is denying the allegations.
A former aide to Sen. Coggs says a staff member used a Capitol office for illegal campaigning, a charge Coggs denies. "These allegations are utterly false and frankly so easily disprovable and frankly crazy," Coggs' spokesman Zak Williams said Wednesday. Williams worked for Coggs' failed campaign for lieutenant governor in 2010 and for Coggs' current campaign to become the City of Milwaukee Treasurer.
The allegation is that a Senate staffer created and updated a campaign website for Coggs' lieutenant governor run in 2010. "That is absolutely false. The campaign contracted with a firm in Milwaukee, and paid a designer in Milwaukee who created it, and then updated the website," Williams said.
The campaign provided expense records that show it paid more than $2,000 to SP Design and Associates, but the GAB is investigating the claim.
At the State Capitol, Republican State Senator Glen Grothman of West Bend says illegal campaigning is a serious infraction. "I think it's a matter that has to be looked into," Grothman said. Still, Grothman says Coggs is innocent until proven guilty. "Senator Coggs is far too left-wing, but I also think he's a man of integrity," Grothman said.
The GAB confirms the complaint was filed by Jana Williams, a former member of Coggs' Senate staff. Williams was fired when the Democrats lost the majority and had to trim their staffs. "The Democrats lost control of the State Senate and her position was eliminated," Williams said.
There is another twist in the story: the Coggs campaign says Jana Williams was dating, and then had a bad break up with the staffer she's now accusing. "You never know what someone's real motivations are, but this is a weird personal situation between her and the staffer who she is accusing, and unfortunately, she has chosen to drag the State Senator into this," Zak Williams said.
Jay Heck is the executive director of Common Cause Wisconsin, a non-partisan organization that advocates for clean government. He says it shouldn't matter if Williams is a disgruntled former employee, or a jilted lover. "I've never heard of a case where it had this type of circumstance. Whether that is a factor shouldn't matter. The facts should stand on their own," Heck said.