Bice: Wisconsin GOP accuses Democrat Andy Gronik of campaign violation

Bice: Wisconsin GOP accuses Democrat Andy Gronik of campaign violatio
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Dan Bice
April 21, 2017

Democratic businessman Andy Gronik says he hasn’t even decided whether he wants to run against Gov. Scott Walker next year, but the state Republican Party is already in attack mode.

On Thursday, Mark Morgan, executive director of the state GOP, filed a complaint with the state Ethics Commission alleging that Gronik had violated state election laws by setting up a politically focused nonprofit called Stage W and commissioning a political poll without registering a formal campaign committee with the state.

The complaint asserts Stage W, which says it is committed to “bridging the political divide,” appears to operate “as a campaign committee in waiting for Mr. Gronik.” Gronik, 59, is president of the nonprofit, which he founded in May 2016.

Earlier this week, Gronik confirmed that he paid for a voter survey to help him decide whether he should challenge the second-term Republican governor in 2018.

The poll, which incorrectly referred to state residents as “Wisconsinians,” asked respondents to compare Gronik with two other possible Democratic gubernatorial candidates and quizzed them on such issues as Act 10, which dramatically curtails collective bargaining for most public employees, and the state’s school voucher program.

The GOP complaint charges the survey was “unquestionably done” to help Gronik run for governor. Morgan asked the Ethics Commission to determine if the Milwaukee businessman or Stage W underwrote the cost of the poll.

In a statement, Morgan said Gronik owes “Wisconsinians” an explanation as to why he has already started his bid for governor without registering with the state.

“By intentionally circumventing public scrutiny and the law with this secret poll — on top of operating a shadowy organization like Stage W — he is showing right out of the gate that hard-working Wisconsin families can’t trust him,” Morgan said.

Gronik did not return calls.

Earlier this week, he said he paid for the poll to help him “take a very strategic and careful look at Wisconsin” on key issues. He said he also wants to “understand the path to victory — what that looks like.”

 Gronik, who has not previously run for public office, declined to say where he stood on such issues as Act 10 or school vouchers. He said he hopes to make an announcement soon on his political plans.

Other Democrats considering a possible run for governor include state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout of Alma, Rep. Dana Wachs of Eau Claire and Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ.

Also being mentioned in political circles as a possible candidate is Daniel Speckhard, a Wisconsin native who is president and CEO of Lutheran World Relief in Baltimore. A former U.S. ambassador to Greece and Belarus, Speckhard did not return a call or email.

Conservative talker Mark Belling of WISN-AM (1130) discussed Speckhard’s possible candidacy on his show earlier this week.

Read the story online here.