Complaint - Oshkosh Mayoral Candidate Paul Esslinger is using city resources for campaign purposes.
1. Oshkosh Mayoral Candidate Paul Esslinger has purchased banner advertising on the Oshkosh Northwestern homepage (http://www.thenorthwestern.com/apps/pbcs.dll/frontpage).
2. The link provided when clicking on the banner advertisement sends the user to Paul Esslinger's biography on the City of Oshkosh website (http://www.ci.oshkosh.wi.us/Esslinger.htm).
Note: This does not happen when you click on the 'badge' advertisement (smaller square adds within the content of stories) for Mr. Esslinger, only on the 'banner' advertising (long thin banners on the homepage).
3. I spoke with an advertising sales person at the Northwestern, it was indicated to me that the candidates who purchase advertising chose where the links direct users. This person also indicated that they guarantee the purchaser of the advertising 25,000 impressions in the week that it is displayed.
4. I spoke with an election specialist at the Wisconsin State Elections Board who indicated that (while there is currently no precedent for internet links) this could fall under the prohibition of using city newsletters and business cards in electioneering. In such a case, it would become a violation when there were 50 or more instances of use. Looking at the guaranteed 25,000 impressions, a 'click rate' of 0.2% would result in a violation.
5. By using the city resources as a web presence, Mr. Esslinger is using taxpayer and government resources to save his campaign the expense of website hosting and construction. He is using these city resources as a contact point for campaign activities as his contact information is listed in the biography. This is an advantage that his competitor does not have. His competitor is required to expend campaign resources for this purpose.
6. Mr. Esslinger gains a false sense of credibility by using the city website for this biography. If he were using a true campaign website requiring disclosure that the copy was provided by the campaign, the reader would know this was a campaign biography they were reading. The city does not indicate who provided the copy. His competitor for the office does not have this opportunity.
Conclusion: Mr. Esslinger's use of the City website to provide a campaign biography and contact information is a violation of campaign rules. It also provides an unfair advantage and campaign funds saving that is not provided to his competitor at taxpayer/city expense.
Below is the text of a complaint that I filed with the Winnebago County District Attorney's Office regarding Oshkosh Mayoral Candidate Paul Esslinger's use of city resources for campaign purposes: