GOP Targets Anti-Corruption Probes
Their message to bipartisan groups: don’t dare investigate us or we’ll punish you.
Over the last several weeks, Republican leaders have signaled their continuation of a retaliatory campaign against public officials and entities involved with several corruption investigations. Leaked documents to The Guardian newspaper revealed that one of these investigations, commonly referred to as John Doe II, uncovered an intricate scheme of typically illegal campaign collusion between Governor Scott Walker and a so-called “independent group,” the Wisconsin Club for Growth, during the recall elections. The leaked documents show how Governor Walker evaded long-established campaign finance laws prohibiting candidates from receiving direct or indirect corporate campaign contributions. This investigation was cut short by the conservative majority on the state Supreme Court that ignored established state and federal campaign finance law.
After a year of investigating the source of these leaked documents, Attorney General Brad Schimel recently revealed, in an 88-page right-wing rant, that he found no specific leaker nor any criminal conduct. Nonetheless, Attorney General Schimel is now urging a court to hold various public officials involved with the investigation in contempt. Meanwhile, Republican legislative leaders have called for a group of public officials, most of whom had little or nothing to do with the John Doe II investigation, to resign from their positions at the newly formed Ethics and Elections Commissions. They are also on the verge of authorizing Attorney General Schimel to expand his investigations into the activities of the now defunct Government Accountability Board (GAB). A prior nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau report uncovered no major issues of concern at the GAB.
Make no mistake – their actions are intended to send a message that anyone or any entity that dares investigate them better think twice. Republican legislators have already dismantled the Government Accountability Board, an independent watchdog agency designed to fight political corruption, shielded themselves from being investigated in secret corruption probes, and opened the flood gates to more corruption and corporate cash in our elections. Now they are entirely focused on intimidating and silencing public servants at the Election and Ethics commissions in advance of an election cycle that is already seeing heavy expenditures by corporate interests.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Schimel’s campaign against nine public officials continues, with his bizarre request that they be held in contempt of court without any specific evidence of wrong doing. Yet he refuses to pursue any sanctions against known conservative leaker Eric O’Keefe, who admittedly and unlawfully leaked information about the corruption probe to various newspapers. To top it off, the Attorney General himself leaked confidential information about a now closed investigation.
These efforts of Republican leaders to silence public officials who had nothing to do with these investigations and to unjustly penalize those who did must be vigorously resisted. The public deserves a government that is accountable to the people rather than a government that squashes accountability measures designed to keep elected officials honest, ethical and law-abiding.
Chris Taylor, D-Madison, represents District 76 in the Wisconsin Assembly.