A GOP-run Senate committee Thursday voted to give AG Brad Schimel the go-ahead to conduct an expanded investigation into the actions of the defunct Government Accountability Board.

The vote came after the Elections Commission head’s protests that Schimel is unable to lead an impartial investigation into the John Doe probes. Meanwhile, the Ethics Commission also signaled it’s meeting tomorrow to discuss a call from GOP leadership for its administrator to step aside in light of the leak report.

The Senate Org Committee’s 3-2 party-line vote to authorize the Department of Justice to investigate matters surrounding the three overlapping John Doe cases came after Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told DOJ he wants it to re-open its investigation.

Sens. Jennifer Shilling and Janet Bewley, the two Dem members of the Senate Org Committee, knocked both the process and their fellow Republicans for supporting an investigation into a defunct agency instead of “helping hardworking Wisconsin families.”

“This request of the Attorney General is an egregious abuse of power, as an open-ended investigation with no clear direction could result in an incredible cost to the taxpayers of Wisconsin,” said Shilling, D-La Crosse. “A request of this nature should be debated in an open forum.”

A DOJ spokesman declined to comment, citing a pending criminal investigation.

Before the vote, Elections Commission Chair Mark Thomsen called into question Schimel’s ability to lead an impartial investigation.

In a letter to the five members of the Senate Org Committee, Thomsen wrote he would support a “credible and unbiased approach” to reviewing the former GAB’s staff and conduct from an “independent review by an impartial factfinder or by a bipartisan fact-finding body.”

But Thomsen said he was concerned Schimel wasn’t able ” to conduct an objective and complete investigation” based on the leak report that he called “one-sided and incomplete.”

“This self-serving and partisan report gives me little confidence that any additional investigation by the Attorney General will be useful to the public or lawmakers who want to know the truth,” Thomsen wrote. “His efforts so far have only misled elected officials and others into making uninformed and, frankly, absurd claims about the G.A.B.’s activities.”

Thomsen also defended commission staffers, saying it was “morally repugnant” for lawmakers to “attack the motives and reputations of hard-working public servants.”

“The character assassinations and slander must stop,” he wrote. “It is time for us to get back to focusing on the important work of running fair elections which the Elections Commission Interim administrator and staff have already proven they do exceptionally well.”

A DOJ spokesman didn’t comment on the letter.

See Thomsen’s letter:

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