The Republican-controlled Senate Committee on Organization has voted to re-open and expand an investigation into a leak at the former Government Accountability Board.
The panel voted 3-2 along party lines Thursday to authorize the Department of Justice to take another look at GAB operations during a time period when staff were helping with an investigation involving Republican lawmakers and their supporters. The leak was tied to a secret John Doe probed that had been looking at whether Governor Scott Walker’s campaign and conservative groups had illegally coordinated. That investigation was eventually shut down by the state Supreme Court with no charges filed.
Republicans have raised concerns that staff who worked at the agency and are now at the state Elections and Ethics Commissions may not have acted impartially in their decisions, and they want the attorney general to see what was motivating their actions at the time. GOP leaders have also called on the administrators of both agencies to resign – a suggestion members of the commissions have said they don’t believe is necessary.
Democrats criticized Thursday’s vote as an attempt to rewrite the history surround their own political scandals. Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse), one of the two “no” votes said in a statement that the GOP is “enlisting the help of the Attorney General, a political ally, and giving him free reign to cherry-pick information in whatever way is most helpful to their republican candidates of choice.”
In a letter sent earlier in the day, Elections Commission chair Mark Thomsen also questioned the ability of Attorney General Brad Schimel to be impartial. “The Attorney General’s original report and subsequent statements repeatedly raise questions and claim
that important facts or actions are unclear or unknown, and yet do not attempt to include information that was apparently readily available through either interviews or documents. Instead the Attorney General relies on incorrect assumptions and flawed logic to paint G.A.B. investigative activities in the worst possible light,” he wrote.
The state Ethics Commission was expected to meet Friday morning to discuss recent calls for its administrator to resign.