Wisconsin Club For Growth Files Suit Against State Elections Board

Target Of John Doe Probe Says GAB Should Not Have Gotten Involved In Investigation


The Wisconsin Club for Growth, one of the conservative groups targeted in a John Doe investigation of possible illegal coordination with Gov. Scott Walker’s recall campaign, has filed yet another lawsuit that aims to block the probe, this time in state court.

The club and its director and treasurer, Eric O’Keefe, have already been fighting the John Doe with a First Amendment challenge in federal court, in which U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa shut down the probe for the time being. They’ve now filed another lawsuit in Waukesha County Circuit Court, this one alleging the Government Accountability Board (GAB) overstepped its authority by getting involved.

Club attorney Todd Graves says state law gives the GAB limited power to launch investigations.

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“They’ve ignored all of those and essentially become an arm of a John Doe investigation, and it’s our contention that the law doesn’t permit that,” said Graves.

The Club’s complaint says the GAB’s use of a John Doe “has created a Frankenstein monster.” For example, Graves says the GAB has hired former U.S. Attorney Francis Schmitz as an investigator while Schmitz is also serving as special prosecutor in the John Doe.

“They’ve essentially taken two different proceedings and bolted the authority together,” said Schmitz.

Wisconsin Common Cause’s Jay Heck, who helped create the GAB several years ago, said the group was doing its job and that the Club is only trying to smear it.

“The charges are irresponsible,” said Heck. “They smack of desperation. And I think frankly, this is just an attempt by Mr. O’Keefe and the Wisconsin Club for Growth to try to divert the attention away from a very serious investigation.”

Graves said the Club’s lawsuit will proceed whether the John Doe is permanently closed or not. If successful, he said it should prevent the GAB from engaging in these types of investigations in the future.

Also on Friday, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos sent a letter to Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm asking what the total cost of the John Doe investigation is, saying the public had a right to know “why resources are being used for a political agenda, rather than fighting the largest crime problem in the state.”