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Contributions to Doyle campaign from casino promoter should worry Wisconsinites says watchdog group

The author of a new report on Governor Jim Doyle's re-election fundraising efforts says voters should be worried about the increase in tribal gaming money pouring into the governor's campaign war chest.

The report by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign shows the top donors to the Doyle campaign are all from the Dennis Troha family, who are also the biggest financial backers of a proposed tribal casino in Kenosha.

Over the last three years, Troha family members from both Wisconsin and Illinois have given more than $200,000 to the Governor's campaign.

Mike McCabe, director of WDC says the amount of tribal gaming money in state elections has jumped from $0 in 1998 to more than a $1 million in 2002.

He says that just reinforces the impression people have that there are very wealthy interests in the state that are able to "call the tune" in this state because they playing such a big role.

But a spokeswoman from the Doyle campaign, Melanie Fonder, says that impression is wrong. She says no donation of any kind will influence the governor.

Doyle has also received contributions from the Potawatomi tribe, which opposes the Kensoha casino.

A spokesman for the Kenosha casino, Evan Zeppos, says the Troha family's donations are not an effort to buy the governor's approval of the new gambling facility. He says they're just exercising their free speech rights like the opponents who have contributed "six figures" in the past as well.

Still, Mike McCabe of the Democracy Campaign says the increasing role of big campaign donations in state races is making average voters more and more cynical about the appearance of a quid pro quo between donations and the policies of politicians who receive them.