Sean Lowe violates campaign finance laws in Wauwatosa tie race, report says

Sean Lowe and his opponent are tied with 702 votes. There is only one provisional ballot which has not yet been opened. Lowe operates on a platform of fairness and police reform.

Wauwatosa Alderman candidate Sean Lowe filed his campaign finance reports late, in violation of the law, AND they contained donations from certain controversial figures that exceeded the limits allowed under campaign finance laws, including former Milwaukee County Democratic Executive Chris Abele and the husband of a lawyer is suing the city with BLM attorney Kimberley Motley, Wisconsin Right Now has learned.

Additionally, 50% of its donors were from out of state, the late reports, which we obtained through an open records request, revealed.

Because Sean Lowe, who has advocated for police reform and heads the Wauwatosa Equity and Inclusion Commission, filed his reports late, voters were prevented from knowing who was funding Lowe before the election. Reports also say he spent all the money, raising questions about whether illegal donations made a difference in a race who tiedwith only one provisional ballot set to break that tie on Friday.

Sean Lowe was running for Councilman for District 5 in Wauwatosa against Rob Gustafson. Both received 702 votes. There is only one provisional ballot which has not yet been opened. If that voter does not provide the necessary identification to the city by 4 p.m. Friday, a recount will take place as part of the contest.

Simply put: If Wauwatosa voters could have known who was funding Sean Lowe and his campaign finance reports contained allegations of violations and donations from people outside of Wauwatosa and a few controversial figures, would that have changed their minds? of at least one other voter – and changed the results of the race? If he didn’t have so much to spend, would it have mattered in such a tight race?

Sean Lowe violated campaign finance laws by submitting his report late, which was confirmed in a violation report that the Wauwatosa City Clerk submitted to the state Ethics Commission.

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Wisconsin Right Now obtained the violation report through an open records request. We were then able to do what voters were unable to do because of the late filing; we examined him to see who had donated to him. We discovered four donations that violated campaign funding limits for the local race, which are $500 for individuals and $400 for PACs. They are:

-Former Milwaukee County Democratic executive Chris Abele, who donated $519.52 on Feb. 23.

-Chris Knowlton, who gave $519.52 on March 14. He is the husband of Kathryn Knowlton, whose name appeared with Motley’s on legal action against the city over its handling of protests that erupted in police shootings by Joseph Mensah.

-Marshawn Wolley, a CEO from Indianapolis, Indiana, who gave $519.52 on March 19. It is unclear why all three gave such a strange and identical amount. His company works to advance diversity and equity initiatives.

-Wauwatosa Professional Firefighters Association Local 1923 PAC Fund donated $1,200, $800 over the limit.

Sean Lowe brought in $5,290.29 from individual contributions and $1,200 from committees, for a total of $6,490.29. The report says he spent $10,708. He ended up with a cash balance of $109.20 because he carried over money from a previous report.

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The report was filed by Chelsea Cross, his campaign manager. Although the reports ask for a signature and a date, no date is indicated with his signature on the reports.

By contrast, Lowe’s opponent in the race did not have to file a report at all because he did not meet the $2,000 minimum threshold to do so, the city clerk told WRN.

Some of the donors are from out of state – 40 in all. That’s out of 80 donors, meaning 50% of his donors were out of state.

For example, a donor, Eu’nice McCoy, is the director of event marketing for the National Urban League (her Linked In page says Black Lives Matter.)

Another, Katelyn Harris Langeis a recruiter for Robinhood, the controversial stock trader, who lives in Arizona.

We spoke with Dan Carlton, administrator of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. He described the process to us in general and confirmed that the limits for local racing were $500 for an individual and $400 for a PAC. He said there are “potential criminal penalties” for both violations (late reporting, over-limit donations), but these violations are generally “handled civilly” because criminal acts would require proof of intent, which is difficult to establish.

“Normally it’s an accident or a misunderstanding,” he said.

Civil violations can result in forfeitures through settlements with the Commission, he said. Campaigns have some time to address violations that exceed campaign funding limits, he said. Sometimes the cases are referred to the local district attorney and sometimes they are handled by the Commission, he said.

Sean Lowe attended the Get Your Knee Off Our Necks pledge march with Motley, which has been a thorn in the side of Wauwatosa police for months, according to an old Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article. He called for “police reform” in Wauwatosa, the article said. He is president of Wauwatosa Equity and Inclusion Commission. In 2021, he tweeted: “No charges for the cop, no justice for the family of Jacob Blake. Ashamed.” In 2020, he wrote, “Some of you had #BlackLivesMatter hashtags last month and this month trying to convince people that Kamala Harris is not black. Please have multiple spots! Support @KamalaHarris ✊🏽 #HerLifeMatters »

WRN has reached out to Chris Abele and Sean Lowe for comment and will update the article with any response.