At least one person illegally removed documents from the old GAB and leaked them to The Guardian, but the needed proof does not exist to convict anyone, the state DOJ concluded in a report released today.
Still, the 92-page document paints the Government Accountability Board as being sloppy in its handling of the records. That, along with what the Department of Justice said was a partisan atmosphere at the defunct agency, opened the door to the leak and now prevents prosecutors from proving criminal liability.
It also recommends contempt proceedings against nine people who worked for the GAB, the Milwaukee County DA’s office or the Elections Commission, along with special prosecutor Francis Schmitz.
DOJ alleges all nine “grossly mishandled” secret John Doe evidence and then failed to turn all of it over to the Wisconsin Supreme Court as ordered.
“Moreover, DOJ is deeply concerned by what appears to have been the weaponization of GAB by partisans in furtherance of political goals, which permitted the vast collection of highly personal information from dozens of Wisconsin Republicans without even taking modest steps to secure this information,” the agency wrote in its report.
The DOJ report also revealed for the first time a third John Doe investigation was opened as part of the secret probe that was eventually shut down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. That third investigation targeted members of the Wisconsin Republican Party and included the collection of hundreds of thousands of documents.
That included emails GOP state Sen. Leah Vukmir, who’s now running for the U.S. Senate, exchanged with her daughter that included private medical information, according to the report.
DOJ was not able to determine why investigators obtained the emails, “let alone saved and labeled” them in a folder that was labeled “Opposition Research.”
Vukmir, who co-authored legislation to disband the GAB, called the actions criminal and said those involved belong in prison.
“My privacy has been violated in such a brazen way by those who targeted me, my friends, and even my family,” Vukmir said. “No political motivation justifies this. The thought of my government intentionally and illegally targeting me is sickening.”
Those singled out for contempt proceedings besides Schmitz include: former GAB Director Kevin Kennedy; former GAB legal counsel Shane Falk; former GAB employee Molly Nagappala; former GAB administrator Jonathan Becker; Elections Commission Counsel Nathan Judnic; Milwaukee ADA David Robles; Milwaukee Administrator James Krueger; and Milwaukee DA Investigator Robert Stelter.
The contempt proceedings are not criminal charges, and any penalties would be left up to the judge who oversaw the investigation into the leak, a DOJ spokesman said.
Several of the targets said they had not seen the report and were not aware of the findings before being contacted by WisPolitics.com. None contacted immediately responded to requests for comment.