Schimel: New investigation of GAB will see if there was ‘other criminal activity’

Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel says a new investigation of the now-defunct Government Accountability Board will look into whether there was “other criminal activity” at the former ethics and elections agency.

Leaders of the Republican-led Wisconsin Senate last week voted to authorize Schimel to conduct a new investigation of the old GAB.

“This would be a more expansive look into whether there were other illegal activities going on, and with this direction from the Senate, we’re happy to do that,” Schimel said on “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” which is produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com.

Meanwhile, the head of the Elections Commission suggested during an appearance on the show lawmakers cannot remove the agency administrator and only commissioners have that power.

The Department of Justice recently completed a lengthy investigation into the leak of documents from the secret John Doe probes of alleged illegal campaign activity involving Gov. Scott Walker and his conservative allies. The GAB was involved in the John Doe investigations.

Schimel’s report concluded that a crime was committed when secret documents were leaked to The Guardian newspaper, but DOJ was unable to identify the exact person who leaked the documents.

“The investigation we completed a couple of weeks ago was solely looking at trying to identify the source of the leak to the Guardian newspaper,” Schimel said. “So, we didn’t look at everything. We looked at what was necessary to follow through on, trying to identify the person who caused that leak.

“We do think there’s the potential that there was other criminal activity besides just the leak, and we’ll look at that,” Schimel said, adding that DOJ would not be talking about the new investigation.

Schimel also explained why his office is intervening in a lawsuit over use of a tax incremental financing district for a new performing arts center in Eau Claire. Schimel’s office said the Eau Claire case could “imperil” the Foxconn development in Mt. Pleasant.

In a recent appearance on “UpFront,” Rick Esenberg of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, who filed the lawsuit against the city of Eau Claire, said the imperil comment was a “bit of an overstatement” by the attorney general’s office.

“Is imperil too strong a word, or do you stand by that?” Gousha asked.

“Foxconn has lots of options available to it. They could go to many different states, they could go to other countries. We have to be very careful not to have any small things demonstrate to them that Wisconsin is not all in to bring these jobs here,” Schimel said.

Mark Thomsen, the Democratic chairman of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, also appeared on the program to defend elections Administrator Mike Haas. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos both have called on Haas, a former employee of the Government Accountability Board, to resign.

Thomsen said Haas was “a footnote” in the attorney general’s recent report on the former GAB.

“Mr. Schimel’s report was one-sided. Mr. Haas isn’t mentioned and to use this to call for Mr. Haas’s head is just wrong,” Thomsen said.

He also said the legislative leaders have slandered Haas.

“There is no indication at all that Mr. Haas was in any way involved in any criminal activity,” Thomsen said. “When you take a public servant who does a great, great job, and who deserves a raise, and then you imply that he was involved with a crime, that is slander. That is the essence of false witness.”

Fitzgerald has said the Senate could make other moves to force Haas out of his job.

But Thomsen cast doubt on Republicans’ ability to remove Haas.

“They don’t have a legal basis to ask for his removal. The statute very clearly says only a majority of the commission can remove him. We just voted a week ago 6-0 to keep him. They can’t remove him,” Thomsen said.

See more from the show.

SHARE