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Wisconsin Senate Committee Votes To OK Probe Into GAB

Wisconsin Elections Commission Head: AG Is Biased

Wisconsin state Senate
Jimmy Emerson, DVM (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Wisconsin Senate Republicans have voted to authorize Attorney General Brad Schimel to launch an investigation into the conduct of former workers at the now-dissolved agency that oversaw state elections and ethics laws.

The Senate organizational committee voted 3-2 Thursday, with all Republicans in favor and Democrats against, to authorize the investigation into the now-defunct Government Accountability Board. Democrats decried the move, with Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling calling it “an egregious abuse of power.”

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has said he wants the state Department of Justice to take a closer look at what employees of the former GAB did during John Doe investigations into Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans.

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Schimel earlier this month released results of his look into how documents related to the John Doe probes were leaked to a newspaper. That report accused the former GAB of being “weaponized” to make partisan attacks against Republicans.

Fitzgerald said he wants Schimel to take a broader look at “all activities” of GAB staff named in the earlier report.

The move Thursday came even as the chairman of the Wisconsin Elections Commission said Republican Schimel can’t be trusted to do an “objective and complete investigation.”

Elections Commission chairman Mark Thomsen wrote lawmakers earlier Thursday urging them to approve an independent or bipartisan review instead of Schimel. Thomsen is a Democrat. The letter came hours before the Republican-controlled Senate committee voted. Thomsen said he does not believe any new investigation is properly part of any current court proceeding.

Ethics Commission To Discuss Resignation Call

The Wisconsin Elections Commission is meeting to discuss a call from Republican legislative leaders that its administrator resign.

The commission was meeting Friday to talk about the letter from Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. The two have asked that Ethics administrator Brian Bell resign, citing concerns over partisan influence remaining from GAB.

Bell has refused to step down and the Ethics Commission has questioned findings made in Schimel’s report that was critical of Bell’s role protecting secret information collected during the now-closed investigation.

Ethics commission chairman David Halbrooks said Thursday he still stands behind Bell, but he wants the full commission to discuss the letter calling for his resignation.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 4:47 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017 with the vote.