By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON, Wis. — Matt Adamczyk wants to abolish the state treasurer’s office so badly, he’s running for the office to do it.
“Let’s get rid of this thing,” the Republican told Wisconsin Reporter. “There’s three staff (in the treasurer’s office). I’m not retaining anyone. I will get this done. I will pound this issue every single day.”
It might seem a strange campaign promise, but this is Wisconsin. Kurt Schuller, the incumbent treasurer, ran on the same promise four years ago. Schuller is not running for re-election this fall, keeping one of his own campaign promises.
Adamczyk will face Scott Feldt in the Republican primary Aug. 12. Feldt, who lost to Schuller in 2010, is running again on a platform of expanding the authority of the treasurer to “decentralize power in Madison, and restore the balance of powers that Wisconsin’s founders intended,” according to an editorial he wrote for The Capital Times, Madison’s progressive newspaper.
Instead, Adamczyk, who until recently worked in the Capitol as a legislative staffer, is pledging to finish the job the Legislature began in 2011 when it stripped away some of the treasurer’s last remaining duties.
Wisconsin taxpayers continue to pay $544,000 a year for a department headed by an elected official drawing a $68,000 annual salary for doing little work.
A Wisconsin Reporter review of the treasurer’s official schedule in 2013 found that his work load over 15 months consisted mainly of sitting in on a conference call every other Tuesday.
The state treasurer’s only formal duty is to serve as a member of the three-person Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, which makes relatively small loans to municipalities and school districts, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau.
“It’s insane, the amount of money they are spending out of that office,” Adamczyk said.
Until the Legislature complies with his request, Adamczyk says that if elected he’ll turn the four-person office into a watchdog of government waste.
He’s already begun that mission, highlighting in a news release earlier this month the treasurer’s office spending on high end hotels for out-of-state junkets in prime location.
In 2011, the department spent $2,122 at the Boston Harbor Hotel, a Forbes five-star hotel whose slogan is “Beyond Compare.”
Last March the department spent $1,066 at the Mandarin Oriental, a five-star luxury hotel in Washington, D.C. A week later, the department charged another $1,016 at the Hyatt in San Diego.
As treasurer, Adamcyzk said he will not travel to out-of-state conferences and will cancel the office’s membership to the National Association of State Treasurers, which has set back state taxpayers $24,450 since 2011.
“There’s zero need for a state treasurer who has no job duties to go to these things,” he said.
No one from the treasurer’s office returned Wisconsin Reporter calls for comment. Schuller, however, blasted Adamcyzk in a news release he titled “Do not attack my staff.”
“If Mr. Adamczyk wants to attack me for carrying out the duties of the office that I was elected to, so be it,” he wrote. “However, he should not use my words from four years ago to distort how I feel about Scott Feldt today. Scott has been a great Deputy and public servant.”
Adamczyk brushed aside the complaint.
“They must not like the idea of people knowing the truth about how they’re spending money,” he said.
The Adamcyzk campaign has broadened its watchdog role, questioning spending by the Department of Public Instruction. Earlier this week, Adamcyzk released DPI charges at high-end restaurants in Madison and elsewhere that he researched on Open Book Wisconsin, a state government transparency website developed by Gov. Scott Walker’s administration.
DPI has spent nearly $195,000 on food purchases since Superintendent Tony Evers was elected in late 2008, Adamcyzk found.
In December 2009, DPI spent $4,274 at Capitol Chophouse over a two day period. In June 2012, the department charged taxpayers $1,073 at Disney’s Corona Springs resort in Orlando, Fla.
“It’s not millions of dollars,” Adamczyk told Wisconsin Reporter. “But extend that to purchases all across state government. It’s a million here; it’s hundreds of thousands there that adds up fast. I know I’m going to find other government waste.”
When asked by Wisconsin Reporter, John McAdams, political scientist at Marquette University, said it’s quite possible GOP voters will be attracted to both the positions of Feldt and Adamczyk.
“In a sense if they’re not doing anything much, both candidates have logical positions,” McAdams said. “One being give the person some actual duties. One being just eliminate it. Both are sensible responses to that situation.”
Contact Ryan Ekvall at [email protected], 608-257-1382 or follow him on Twitter @Nockian.