State Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) is calling for the resignations of officials at the Elections and Ethics commissions that were named by the state Department of Justice in its investigation of the Government Accountability Board. Nass called for the resignations of Michael Haas and Nathan Judnic from the Elections Commission, and Brian Bell and David Buerger from the Ethics Commission.
“The Attorney General’s report leaves little doubt that several staff in the now defunct Government Accountability Board (GAB) illegally abused John Doe powers to target Republicans,” Nass said in a statement released Thursday. “Partisan staff at the GAB violated the constitutional rights of dozens to several hundred citizens in order to criminalize being a Republican in Wisconsin.”
“The conduct at the GAB was so reprehensible that anyone associated with it is unfit to serve at the State Ethics or Election Commission,” Nass said.
Nass’ statement was a reaction to a report released Wednesday on the abuses of the John Doe process by members of the Government Accountability Board and others. The report describes an intelligence-gathering operation by rogue liberal government officials for the purpose of silencing the conservative movement in Wisconsin. The DOJ investigation was prompted by the leak of court-ordered sealed information to The Guardian by unknown operatives of the John Doe investigation in an effort to sway the US Supreme Court to allow the illegal intelligence gathering operation to continue.
Among the revelations, boxes of confidential material marked “opposition research,” gathered emails (often personal) from conservatives that had nothing to do with a criminal investigation, and even the existence of a hitherto unknown third investigation nicknamed by the DOJ as “John Doe III.”
In the DOJ report, Attorney General Brad Schimel recommended the John Doe judge initiate contempt proceedings against Judnic and Brueger for their roles in the illegal intelligence gathering operation. In addition, the report explains Haas’ role in helping the GAB prepare court documents and Bell’s role in preparing the John Doe records for storage or usage in a new investigation.
“I have absolutely no faith in the ability of these four individuals to serve in a impartial and fair manner,” Nass said. “All four men either participated in the GAB’s improper conduct or failed to comply with court orders in the treatment of the illegally obtained records. Worse yet, not one of them ever took action to protect the constitutional rights of the citizens being illegally targeted for partisan prosecution.”
In 2015, the GAB was dissolved by the Republican legislature in reaction to the abuses of the John Doe investigations and replaced with separate commissions on elections and ethics. The GAB also failed a legislative audit of its administration of elections and often was more concerned about regulating speech than in properly fulfilling its mandated role in managing elections.
The GAB was formed in 2007 by a merger of the old state ethics and elections board after “the Caucus scandal” of legislative staff working on political campaigns while being paid by the taxpayers to be staff. Kevin Kennedy was made the executive director of the GAB despite warnings from conservatives that he would be a partisan for the Democrats.