Legal wrangling over a probe launched by Milwaukee County District Attorney Mike Chisholm into Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign continues as a Wisconsin-based free-market think tank has filed a class action lawsuit against Chisholm, employees of his office and senior staff of a now-defunct state board.
Last week, the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy filed its proposed class action in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The named defendants include Chisholm; Francis Schmitz, special prosecutor for the state Government Accountability Board; Bruce Landgraf and David Robles, both Milwaukee County assistant district attorneys; Kevin J. Kennedy, director and general counsel for the GAB; Jonathan Becker, administrator of the Ethics and Accountability Division of the GAB; and Shane Falk, staff attorney for the GAB.
The GAB, charged with oversight of Wisconsin’s campaign finance, elections, ethics and lobbying laws, has since been dissolved.
In December, Walker signed 2015 Wisconsin Act 118, which did away with the board effective June 30 and replaced it with two separate commissions, with partisan appointees, to oversee the administration of elections and ethics. The change was prompted by the board’s involvement in Chisholm’s secret, or “John Doe,” investigation.
MacIver, a nonprofit institute formed in 2008 and dedicated to free markets and limited government, has been a backer of the conservative Republican Walker and much of his policies.
In 2011, the institute and Americans for Prosperity bought more than $500,000 worth of television ads in Wisconsin supporting the governor’s budget proposals, though they did not mention Walker by name in the ads, according to a Journal Sentinel report.
Now, MacIver claims Chisholm, his employees and some GAB staffers illegally seized the institute’s digital records during the criminal probe that alleged “illegal coordination” of campaign funding by Walker and 29 independent nonprofits, the institute included.