ILLEGAL POLITICAL LAWFARE FROM WISCONSIN’S DEEP STATE: Government Accountability Board staff participated in John Doe probe without OK from GAB judges.
The state Government Accountability Board’s top officials proceeded with a secret probe into coordination between Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and conservative political groups for months without authorization from the six retired judges who run the board, court records unsealed Friday allege.
The documents filed by a target of the investigation also allege that the board voted to end its involvement in the probe in July but that staff continued to work on it.
The records add ammunition to Republicans in the state Legislature seeking to overhaul or abolish Wisconsin’s elections and ethics watchdog agency.
GAB spokesman Reid Magney referred questions about the unsealed records to the board’s attorney. A message left with Paul Schwarzenbart, the Madison attorney hired to defend the board, was not returned.
Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Lee Dreyfus Jr. ordered most of the complaint filed by Wisconsin Club for Growth and one of its directors, Eric O’Keefe, unsealed Friday at the group’s request. The previously redacted parts of the lawsuit include snippets of internal GAB memos and minutes of meetings in which the secret John Doe investigation was discussed. . . .
It alleges that GAB chief counsel Kevin Kennedy and Jonathan Becker, administrator of the agency’s ethics and accountability division, “unilaterally admitted the GAB to John Doe II without the knowledge or approval of the GAB Board.” . . .
The lawsuit claims investigators examined “hundreds of thousands of documents” during the 2½-year investigation and GAB has hired four investigators and devoted significant additional staff time to conduct the probe.
Citing internal GAB records, the lawsuit alleges the John Doe has issued at least 30 subpoenas and five search warrants and that other subpoenas and warrants were planned including for “media figures such as Charlie Sykes and Sean Hannity.”
Estimated expenditures listed in the lawsuit remain redacted.
The main thrust of the Club for Growth lawsuit claims that the agency has no legal authority to conduct a criminal investigation, that it can only investigate and act on civil matters and that it has violated the procedures laid out in state law for GAB investigations.
Bankrupt some people and put some people in jail as an example to the others.
More: ‘Outside the … law’: Lawmakers call for investigation of GAB.
Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, is calling for a legislative panel to investigate the state Government Accountability Board following documents made public Friday that show GAB staff members appear to have flouted the law and continued to pursue a politically charged John Doe investigation even after the board’s presiding judges voted to shut it down.
“We want to get to the bottom of this,” said Tiffany, who along with state Rep. David Craig, R-Town of Vernon, has been among the most vocal proponents of reforming the GAB, which regulates Wisconsin campaign finance law, ethics, and elections.
Even with Friday’s disclosures, Tiffany said, “I’m not sure we are to the bottom of this.”. . .
In recent years, the GAB has become notorious for its eagerness to use the John Doe law to investigate conservative officials political candidates, activists and even journalists who might seem supportive of Gov. Scott Walker. Walker is the author of Act 10, the 2011 law that reformed public sector collective bargaining in the state. GAB staff and district attorney investigators are asked to pay more toward their health insurance and pensions under the law.
Punch back twice as hard, or this will happen again.