The head of the state Elections Commission is calling on Republican lawmakers to stop implying staff at the former Government Accountability Board acted criminally while carrying out a now closed John Doe investigation.
In a letter to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), Elections Commission interim administrator Michael Haas argues that recent comments by both have “no factual or legal basis,” and that he believes they may be slanderous. “I am respectfully requesting an immediate public apology and correction,” he writes.
Haas references a letter sent by Fitzgerald to Attorney General Brad Schimel earlier this week, in which he said he wants the agency to reopen and expand an investigation into a leak at the GAB that resulted in documents from a secret investigation that targeted Governor Scott Walker’s campaign being leaked to the Guardian Newspaper. “There is enough evidence that GAB staff were acting incompetently at best, and criminally at worst, in the years surrounding the recall elections of 2011 & 2012,” Fitzgerald wrote.
Haas contends there’s no evidence to back up the claim though and defends how staff operated during the recall elections that were going on during those years. “G.A.B.’s management of the election events in the hyper-partisan atmosphere which occurred during those years demonstrated an extremely high level of competence,” he writes.
A Senate committee voted Thursday to authorize the expanded probe.
Haas also mentions an interview with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos that WRN published Wednesday, in which the Rochester Republican defended recent calls for Haas and Wisconsin Ethics Commission administrator Brian Bell to resign. “The idea that individuals who potentially are on the short list of having committed a crime are now going to be in charge of running ethics and elections seems preposterous to me,” Vos said.
“Again, there is absolutely no basis for alleging that Mr. Bell or I are potentially on any short list of having committed any crime, much less have committed any crimes,” Haas argues.
Haas says his work at the GAB was barely mentioned in the Attorney General’s report on the leak and that “neither the Attorney General nor any elected official has articulated either to me or in public what I supposedly did wrong as a member of the G.A.B. staff or related to its investigations.”
“Your statements implying that I have been involved in criminal activity are verifiably false, and you have not offered the least bit of evidence to support those claims. You are aware that those statements are untrue and yet you made them with the intent that they would be made public and reported by the media,” Haas writes. “In short, I am requesting that you stop trashing my name and reputation.”
Messages seeking comment from Senator Fitzgerald and Speaker Vos were not immediately returned.