MADISON (WKOW) -- A campaign finance report shows republican lawmaker Bill Kramer used donor funds to pay an attorney $10,000 to defend him against sex assault accusations.
"There is no way on earth that campaign funds should be able to be used by an official to defend that official against sexual assault charges," Executive Director Mike McCabe of the watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign tells 27 News.
The finance report for Rep. Kramer (R-Waukesha) lists payments to to Gatzke & Ruppelt SC for "Legal Fees-Compliance/Administrative" of $5,000 on March 22, and $5,000 on June 2. Attorney James Gatzke was publicly identified as Kramer's attorney after a woman's accusations of sexual assault surfaced. And police records show Gatzke accompanied Kramer to Muskego for a police interrogation three days after the March campaign payment.
Kramer has been charged with two felony counts of sexual assault. Authorities say Kramer sexually assaulted a former political aide after a republican event in Muskego in 2011. Authorities say the woman came forward after two other women accused Kramer of sexual harassment earlier this year.
McCabe says Kramer's use of campaign funds for this purpose appears to be illegal.
"This is totally inconsistent with the plain meaning of state law," McCabe says.
"State law says you can only use campaign funds if you are being investigated for, or being charged with violations of campaign finance and election laws," McCabe says.
Wisconsin Government Accountability Board attorney Mike Haase declines comment on Kramer's campaign finance report.
Kramer has yet to respond to an email and call seeking comment.
Gatzke tells 27 News Kramer was not questioned by officers on Mar. 25. "I accompanied him to the police department for his photographing and fingerprinting," Gatzke tells 27 News. "I was serving as his attorney, but you have to remember there were a number of issues that were occurring at the same time."
Gatzke says he's primarily acting as Kramer's legal counsel for potential, civil litigation involving Kramer, and issues involving Kramer's status as a state employee. While Kramer's been stripped by his republican colleagues of an assembly leadership position, he's rebuffed calls for his resignation, and expects to remain on the state's payroll through early January. Kramer's not seeking re-election.
Gatzke says the Muskego Police Department's investigation may be central to any civil litigation, and Kramer's payment of campaign funds to him meets the law's standards.
A February, GAB opinion on campaign finance and legal fees reinforces limits on the use of campaign money for a legal defense, but states donor funds are available for both criminal and civil legal defense funds, under certain circumstances.
Attorney Eduardo Borda is attorney-of-record in Kramer's felony, sexual assault case. Kramer is scheduled to appear for a court hearing Friday.
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