State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk is accusing Secretary of State Doug La Follette of wasting money intended for the state’s schools by going on junkets paid for by the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL).
“I cannot believe Doug La Follette has been allowed to waste this money,” Adamczyk said in a statement released Wednesday. “What a joke! He and staff at the BCPL fly around the country going on luxurious junkets with money that should be going to the children of Wisconsin.”
Adamcyk, La Follette and state Attorney General Brad Schimel are the three members of the Board of Commissioners that govern the BCPL. The BCPL administers trust funds from the sale of public land and controls 77,000 acres of public land. The money earned by the BCPL is used for public education purposes, including school libraries.
According to records posted online by Adamczyk, La Follette has spent $33,444.85 since 2007 on travel at BCPL expense to conferences sponsored by the Western States Land Commissioners Association. Wisconsin is a member of the association.
“The treasurer comes out with this malarky every so often and this is another example of it,” La Follete said in a phone interview on Wednesday.
La Follette said the funds of the land commission are supposed to go to running the land commission. “The commission has a lot of expenses,” La Follette said. “One of those expenses is to for us to attend the associations that we are members of.”
As Wisconsin is a member of the Western States Land Commissioners Association, La Follette says it’s his responsibility to represent Wisconsin at these meetings.
“He makes it sound like a horrible expense,” La Follette said. “But if you look at it, we’re talking about an amount over 20 years.”
The actual time period is over ten years, as there are no records from before then, according to Adamczyk.
La Follette said the registration fee for these events is $400, with the expenses adding up to about $2000 per year to attend the conferences. “That’s very reasonable in my opinion,” La Follette said.
When asked why it was important to attend these meetings, La Follette pointed to travel by other government officials. “Ask the attorney general, ask the governor,” La Follette said. “Governor Walker goes to the governors meeting twice a year. The attorney general goes to the attorneys general association meetings.”
“It’s reasonable and necessary for Wisconsin to participate in these conferences,” La Follette said. “The benefit is they have workshops. They have speeches. They have programs where we learn quite a bit about a number of things.”
Adamczyk said that La Follette’s travel to these conferences cannot be compared to the governor’s travel. “The governor has a lot of duties,” Adamczyk said in a phone interview. “He runs the entire state. And he has a ton of power and responsibility under his leadership. So when he’s working on issues, it actually matters.”
“Doug La Follette has no duties, really,” Adamczyk said. “He does nothing. And when he goes on these trips, he’s going there to enjoy himself and go on a vacation.”
Adamczyk said that neither he nor Schimel go on these trips. “And we’re all land commissioners,” Adamczyk said. “So why does he go but we don’t need to go?”
The treasurer also disputed that the conferences are educational. “These conferences are taxpayer-funded junkets, that’s what this is,” Adamczyk said. “His presence means absolutely nothing. He brings nothing back. There’s no new knowledge learned. There is no reason for him to go.”
The lack of value of attending these conferences was made apparent, Adamczyk said, when La Follette attempted at the commissioners’ April 18 conference call meeting (audio link 7:45) to bar BCPL staff from going if the secretary of state was not allowed to go. Adamczyk was opposed to support sending staff or La Follette.
After saying that it might be appropriate for La Follette to pay his own way to a conference in Alaska, Schimel moved to allow two staff members to attend the conference. La Follette attempted to amend the motion to allow himself to go to the conference. Schimel said it was his preference to consider that issue separately, so he would not second the amendment.
After ten seconds of awkward silence, Schimel said, “Okay, without a second, we won’t be able to proceed to any vote on this.” After more silence, Schimel seconded the amendment to allow La Follette to attend. Schimel and Adamczyk voted against allowing La Follette to attend the conference at public expense.
Two weeks later at the May 2nd meeting La Follette insisted again on going to the conference and would not support staff attending without him. This time Schimel relented to La Follette’s demands so the two staff members would be able to attend the conference in Alaska.