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County prosecutors decline to pursue charges in case involving Trump PAC

The Wisconsin Ethics Commission referred the charging recommendations to nearby jurisdictions

Republican Adam Steen speaks to a crowd of people at a rally for Donald Trump in Waukesha. Trump has endorsed Steen in his Republican primary race against Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.
Republican Adam Steen speaks at a rally for former President Donald Trump in Waukesha on Aug. 5, 2022. Trump endorsed Steen in his Republican state primary against Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.

Citing conflicts of interest, district attorneys in three counties that received charging recommendations from the state’s top ethics watchdog will not pursue prosecution, according to materials filed with the bipartisan Wisconsin Ethics Commission.

Commissioners met Friday afternoon to refer the charging recommendations to neighboring jurisdictions, which they determined by drawing names of adjacent counties from a bowl.

Prosecutors in Chippewa, Florence and Langlade Counties told the commission they will not pursue the case “due to a conflict of interest.”

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The Chippewa County charges will be referred to Taylor County; the Florence County charges will be referred to Forest County; and the Langlade County charges will be referred to the Menominee-Shawano counties.

Wade C. Newell, the Chippewa County district attorney, previously told WPR he had referred the matter back to the commission because of his ongoing membership in the county Republican party.

“It would be a conflict for me to take any action regarding these allegations,” he said.

The district attorneys in Florence and Langlade did not respond to WPR’s request for comment.

In late February, the commission recommended felony prosecution of a committee related to former President Donald Trump and several elected Wisconsin officials. The commission alleged the officials and the committee violated campaign finance law.

According to the commission, Trump’s Save America committee, Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, and three county GOP offices conspired to illegally bypass campaign finance rules to funnel money to a Republican candidate challenging Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in 2022.

Vos’ opponent in that race, Adam Steen, narrowly lost his Trump-backed bid in the partisan primary and later mounted a write-in challenge in the general election.

Party arms are allowed to give candidates unlimited funds, but the complaints allege that individual donors earmarked donations to the party for Steen to get around the cap on individual donations.

The ethics commission described this as “collusion” and “intentional.”

Karoline Leavitt, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign, did not know about the charging recommendations against Save America until contacted by WPR in early March.

“Save America is fully compliant with all state and federal campaign finance laws,” she said.