Monday, November 19, 2007

Jensen defense totals more than $362,000

Former legislator Scott Jensen had spent at least $362,000 through June to fight misconduct in office charges, much of that coming from his old campaign account, according to IRS documents reviewed by WisPolitics.

The former GOP Assembly speaker, who resigned his seat upon his conviction on three felony counts for using state resources to bolster campaigns, has raised a total of $363,975 for the account as of the last report on June 30 of this year. A majority of that figure, more than $287,135, was paid from funds transferred from his campaign fund, Taxpayers for Jensen, to his legal defense fund.

Jensen and co-defendant Sherry Schultz, a former GOP legislative aide, were granted new trials in a Nov. 8 ruling by the 4th District Court of Appeals. The court ruled the instructions required the jury to accept that Jensen obtained a dishonest advantage if jurors found he had used state resources for political purposes. Instead, the jurors should have been told they may - but need not - find that Jensen obtained a dishonest advantage, the appeals court ruled.

The appeals court also ruled Jensen, of Brookfield, was improperly barred from testifying about his knowledge of activities by other Dem and GOP lawmakers because the question of whether he intended to gain a dishonest advantage by using state employees for political campaigns was relevant to his defense.

The Department of Justice is expected to decide by the end of this month whether to appeal the appeals courts ruling to the state Supreme Court. If there is no appeal, a new trial would likely be sought by prosecutors.

According to IRS filings for his legal defense fund, Jensen has paid $362,325 to the law office of his attorney Stephen Meyer of Madison. Payments began on December 2002, and the last reported payment was for $10,000 on April 3, 2007. Because his defense fund is a non-profit, Jensen is required to make twice-yearly filings with the IRS.

Though he has had other firms working on his case, including two attorneys from the Milwaukee firm of Friebert, Finnerty and St. John who are helping with his appeal, Jensen's legal defense fund hasn't made payments to any firms other than Meyer's as of the last filing, on June 30 of this year.

Jensen closed his campaign account in October 2006, but prior to that had filtered $283,766 from Taxpayers for Jensen to the legal defense fund. To use the campaign funds, Jensen first had to ask the individual contributors if they objected to his transfer of the money to his legal defense fund.

According to the IRS filings, since Jan. 1, 2006, Jensen has paid $38,250 out of his own pocket. His wife, Julie Jensen, also chipped in $12,000 on June 26, 2006.

Others who have made donations to the Jensen legal defense fund include: former Jensen staffers and legislative employees Steve Knudson, Katie Mnuk, Adam Peer, Steve Baas, Brett Healy, Ellen Nowak, Melanie Hubbard and Brian Dake. Also on the list of contributors is Jim Klauser, a former administration secretary for Gov. Tommy Thompson who worked closely with Jensen over the years.

Baas, Dake and Healy testified at Jensen's trial. Dake testified on March 1, 2006, and his $250 donation to the legal defense fund was recorded on March 29 of that year. Healy testified on March 6, 2006, and his $5,000 donation is registered on April 27 of that year. Baas' testimony was on March 6, 2006, and his $250 donation came on March 29 of this year.

Three GOP legislators also gave cash to Jensen's defense: Sue Jeskewitz, Garey Bies and Eugene Hahn. Former GOP legislator Marc Duff has also contributed.

Dane County DA Brian Blanchard, who prosecuted the case, also asked that Jensen repay about $67,000 in attorney fees that were covered by taxpayers before Jensen was charged. But Ebert put off a ruling on that issue until appeals have been resolved.

See the Jensen IRS filings here

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