Last week, Attorney General Brad Schimel urged Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge William Hue to hold special prosecutors and the former Government Accountability Board staff in contempt of court following a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation of leaked documents from the John Doe investigation of Governor Scott Walker’s recall campaign.
DOJ’s investigation of John Doe documents was spurred by a 2016 article from The Guardian newspaper about the John Doe investigation that referenced a number of documents leaked to the media outlet from unknown sources. In the 90-page report issued by Schimel last week, DOJ concluded the Government Accountability Board leaked the documents. However, the investigation could not point to specific individuals.
Schimel stated, “The systemic and pervasive mishandling of John Doe evidence likely resulted in circumstances allowing the Guardian leak in the first place, and no prevents prosecutors from proving criminal liability beyond a reasonable doubt.”
In addition, Schimel and the DOJ discovered the John Doe investigators accumulated private emails unrelated to campaign activity. As reported by the State Journal, DOJ found 150 personal emails between a state senator and her daughter about health information. The personal emails were filed in a folder labeled “Opposition Research.”
“DOJ is deeply concerned by what appears to have been the weaponizing of GAB by partisans in furtherance of political goals,” Schimel said in the report.
Schimel is recommending contempt proceedings be held against former GAB attorney Shane Falk, Special Prosecutor Francis Schmitz, and former GAB employees Kevin Kennedy, Jon Becker, Nathan Judnic, and Molly Nagappala. Schimel’s report indicates the DOJ concluded the individuals continued reviewing documents after state courts told them they could not review them further.
A number of Republican legislators issued statements following the breaking news. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos stated, “The GAB will go down in Wisconsin history as a failed experiment. The secret, unconstitutional John Doe investigations will be remembered for their blatant breach of personal information and silencing of free speech.”
Democratic legislators also issued statements. In response to Speaker Vos, Representative Chris Taylor said, “Few people besides Robin Vos and his Republican colleagues would consider this a success. Instead, it is a travesty for the people of Wisconsin and our Democracy.”
At the time of this writing, Judge William Hue has not begun official contempt proceedings.