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State superintendent candidate defends dental work

MADISON (AP) -- State superintendent candidate John Humphries on Thursday paid a dentist $300 for teeth whitening that he initially accepted for free as an in-kind campaign contribution.

Humphries paid for the work himself after The Associated Press questioned the legality of using campaign funds for the expense.

His campaign manager, Brian Schupper, said the candidate paid for the dental work personally "to avoid any further distraction." The Wisconsin Democratic Party also filed a complaint with the state Ethics Commission over the expense.

Humphries' campaign finance filing submitted Tuesday showed that he accepted a $300 in-kind contribution for dental work from Mount Horeb dentist Amanda Hatch on Oct. 3. That was 10 days after Humphries registered as a candidate but a month before he publicly launched his campaign.

The dentist is a personal friend and offered to perform the teeth whitening because she said Humphries would need white teeth on the campaign trail, Schupper said. Humphries did not schedule the appointment to have his teeth whitened and offered to pay her at the time for the service, Schupper said.

Because the whitening was directly related to him being a candidate for office, the campaign believes it is allowed as an in-kind contribution under the law, Schupper said. State law forbids spending campaign contributions for personal benefit.

"The campaign's intention in reporting it was to be open and transparent," Schupper said. "To avoid any further distraction, John has reimbursed the donor for the expense personally."

It is unusual for dental work to be reported as an in-kind contribution. Typically, such campaign donations are typically for office space, printing costs or other expenses associated with running for office.

The Democratic Party's complaint alleged that the dental work amounted to an illegal corporate donation because the dentist office is a limited liability corporation. The Ethics Commission does not comment on pending complaints.

Humphries is challenging incumbent Superintendent Tony Evers. Former Beloit and Whitnall superintendent Lowell Holtz is also on the ballot and Racine high school teacher Rick Melcher is running as a write-in candidate.

The primary is Feb. 21 and the general election is April 4.

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