Wisconsin Legislators Keep Heat on Walker

by Matthew Rothschild, Executive Director

September 30, 2016

The heat is still on Gov. Scott Walker for his alleged illegal activity in office.

On Sept. 29, 16 Assembly Democrats signed a letter to Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, alleging that Walker, his campaign committee, the Wisconsin Club for Growth, and other corporations “may have engaged in criminal conduct by violating Wisconsin’s longstanding ban on accepting corporate monies, ethics laws, and prohibitions against misconduct in public office.”

These are new allegations, which the special prosecutor in the John Doe II case hadn’t focused on and therefore could be ripe for a new investigation, no matter whether the U.S. Supreme Court reinstates the old John Doe II investigation or not.

“These potential crimes have not previously been raised or considered during the various John Doe proceedings about this case,” the letter states. The legislators requested that Ozanne “investigate this potential criminal conduct.”

Relying on the a treasure trove of documents that the Guardian released from the John Doe II investigation, the legislators allege that Walker “likely violated” Wisconsin’s “corporate contribution ban.”

Walker, they say, essentially was using the Wisconsin Club for Growth “as his own personal campaign committee,” and corporations that, under his direction, were donating to the Wisconsin Club for Growth were, in essence, illegally donating to his campaign.

The penalty that Walker could face for violating this ban on corporate gifts to candidates includes “forfeiture of the candidate’s right to office and felony penalties,” the letter states.

And the penalty facing Wisconsin Club for Growth and the corporations, like Menards and Gogebic Taconite, which donated to Wisconsin Club for Growth on Walker’s instruction, includes “a Class I Felony and treble damages,” the letter states.

The legislators also allege that “Walker may have engaged in a quid pro quo scheme in violation of Wisconsin statutes.” They cite the case of Gogebic Taconite, which contributed at least $930,000 to Wisconsin Club for Growth and then proceeded to write the mining bill to its own specifications. The legislators also refer to Harold Simmons, the owner of NL Industries, the lead company. Simmons donated $500,000 to Wisconsin Club for Growth on the checking account of Contran, another company he owned. Simmons benefited from “two corporate immunity bills passed by the Wisconsin legislature,” the letter states.

The legislators further allege that Walker violated the state ethics regulations, which “prohibit a state public official from using his position in a way that he, his family, or an organization in which he is associated benefits.” Since Walker and his campaign were benefiting from his fundraising scheme with Wisconsin Club for Growth, the legislators allege that he may be guilty of “misconduct in office,” which is a “Class I Felony.”

Lastly, the legislators allege that Walker’s threat to curb the budgets of the district attorneys who are appealing the John Doe II decision “may have violated Wisconsin law and ethical standards.”

Since Walker and the Republican legislature exempted elected officials from further John Doe prosecutions last year, it is now up to district attorneys to press charges against them. And since Walker lives in Madison and Wisconsin Club for Growth is incorporated in Sun Prairie, the legislators say that the Dane County district attorney is the appropriate prosecutor.