High Stakes for Doyle in Georgia Thompson Trial
The high-stakes trial of Doyle Administration official Georgia Thompson begins tomorrow.
The fate of Georgia Thompson, a purchasing division supervisor, will likely determine whether more charges and other defendants will follow in the investigation Republicans have dubbed "Travelgate."
Thompson, 56, of Waunakee, was on a team of evaluators that reviewed bids for the three-year contract to handle travel arrangements for state employees. It ultimately was awarded to Adelman Travel, whose chief executive, Craig Adelman, made $10,000 in donations to Gov. Jim Doyle over a 10-month period.
Thompson is charged with two felonies: causing misapplication of funds and participating in a scheme to defraud the State of Wisconsin of the right to honest services. The indictment does not allege a pay-to-play scheme in which the contract was awarded in exchange for the donations. Rather, it alleges that Adelman Travel would not have gotten the contract if Thompson had not illegally inflated the firm's scores. Thompson steered the contract to Adelman "to cause political advantage for her supervisors" and to bolster her job security, according to the indictment.
Thompson has pleaded not guilty. Her attorney, Stephen Hurley of Madison, insists no crime has been committed. The prosecution alleges that Thompson did the right thing for the wrong reasons, which isn't illegal, he said in February. Because the committee members subjectively arrived at their scores for vendors, there was no way to illegally inflate them, he said.
The criminal charge against Thompson has turned the issue of corruption in state contracting into a major focus of the campaign for governor.
Doyle, a Democrat up for re-election in November, has known Adelman for decades. Adelman gave the Doyle campaign the maximum $10,000 allowed by law before and after the process that awarded the contract. A company board member, Mitchell Fromstein, also gave $10,000 after the contract was awarded.
For Republican leaders looking to oust Doyle, the charges against Thompson prompted a name for the scandal - "Travelgate" - and they began demanding that the Doyle campaign return the donations. He has not.
Not returning the donations has proven to be a tactical mistake by Doyle. Imagine how much better the story would have read if he had.
Doyle has returned the contributions from Adelman and Fromstein, and he is on record saying, "I am setting aside these contributions, not because they are tainted, but because there must be no doubt in the minds of Wisconsin citizens that my Administration and my campaign are both run ethically. I am confident that at the conclusion of this case it will become clear that my Adminstration did not harm taxpayers for the benefit of my campaign."But he has refused to make such a statement.
So this continues...
Could be a big week in gubernatorial politics.
And it could be a long summer for Governor Jim Doyle.