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Mr. Gardner was charged with asking his employees to contribute tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions, for which he then reimbursed them. This allowed Mr. Gardner to illegally funnel $43,000 to the Friends of Scott Walker. Wisconsin State Law states that the maximum donation allowed is $10,000 and that corporate contributions are prohibited.
In April 2010, Mr. Gardner met personally with Scott Walker and afterwards sent an e-mail saying "Keep up the good work and I will do everything I can do to get you in the Governor’s Mansion." Mr. Gardner also made it clear that his company operates hundreds of miles of state-owned track.
The state Government Accountability Board fined Mr. Gardner and the Wisconsin & Southern $166,900, a state record. Seven of Mr. Gardner's employees were fined $250 each.
Under a plea deal, Mr. Gardner was convicted of the largest campaign finance violation in Wisconsin history.