The state budget that's headed to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers contains language added by Republicans this week that would make it easier to sell Tesla-brand cars in Wisconsin.
Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, voted for the budget. He sells rebuilt Tesla vehicles and Tesla parts. The GOP lawmaker tearfully denied Wednesday that the amendment would benefit him.
But some Waukesha County residents are skeptical of Kapenga's claim, and the location of his business appears to be a mystery.
Kapenga's firm is called Integrity Motorsports. Its website lists an address on Chapman Lane in an industrial park in Eagle. But when WUWM visited that Waukesha County location Wednesday afternoon, there were no signs for Integrity Motorsports and the owners of two longtime companies in the building said they had never heard of Kapenga's business.
At the nearby Eagle Municipal Building, the town clerk provided copies of three forms Kapenga signed in 2016 to locate a business and place signage at the Chapman Lane address. But town officials declined comment on our not being able to find Integrity Motorsports.
In the senator's district in Delafield, Lake Country resident Harry Nunnemacher says it looks like Kapenga would benefit from the budget amendment allowing Tesla sales in Wisconsin.
“As a public servant, it would perhaps be a better example to follow the road of abstaining from something that potentially could benefit oneself financially," Nunnemacher said.
Nunnemacher says he would have preferred Kapenga abstain from voting on the state budget when the Senate passed it Wednesday. But Kapenga was part of a 17-16 majority that sent the budget on to Evers.
Earlier Wednesday at a State Capitol news conference, Kapenga denied he would financially gain from the Tesla amendment, and said news stories about his connection to Tesla hurt his family.
"When I had my daughter come [to me,] she says, 'Why do they say things like this? This is a total lie, it's painted to make you feel bad,' " Kapenga said tearfully.
Kapenga also said he and his daughter put together the website for Integrity Motorsports.
UW-Milwaukee professor emeritus Mordecai Lee says Evers could veto the Tesla language, saying it's a policy item. But Lee says that would put the governor in a bind.
“If he says, 'I'm against policy in the budget, and therefore, I'm vetoing this,' he's really got to be careful about what he says, because he was the guy who put policy in the budget when he submitted his budget to the Legislature, “ Lee told WUWM’s Marti Mikkelson.
But Lake Country resident Harry Nunnemacher says Evers should closely look at a veto.
"I think the executive of the state would be well-served in seeing what best suits the interests of the entire state and not just some individuals," Nunnemacher said.
Evers is expected to announce any budget vetoes within a few weeks.
WUWM's calls and e-mails to Integrity Motorsports were not returned. The governor's office did not reply to a question about possibly vetoing the Tesla language.
Support is provided by Dr. Lawrence and Mrs. Hannah Goodman for Innovation reporting.
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