Policy: Law

Wisconsin Club for Growth sues state board over involvement in probe targeting conservative groups

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Philip Klein,Wisconsin,Club for Growth,Law

Conservative activist Eric O'Keefe, director of the Wisconsin Club for Growth, has filed a lawsuit against a state agency for its involvement in a secret probe against conservative groups.

At issue is an investigation into political activity in the 2012 recall elections being conducted in secret under the state's John Doe laws.

In the complaint, O'Keefe and the Wisconsin Club for Growth argue that the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board and its executive director, Kevin Kennedy, abused power and illegally appropriated taxpayer money to participate in the investigation.

"It is evident that Kevin Kennedy attempted to hide the involvement of his agency in actions against Wisconsin citizens that it had no legal authority to conduct,” said attorney Todd Graves, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of O'Keefe.

According to the complaint:

“The GAB’s use of a John Doe has created a Frankenstein monster. The GAB has grafted its existing powers for civil enforcement of campaign finance laws onto law enforcement powers borrowed from the John Doe statute, and from this hybrid bundle of investigative powers, has lopped off vital procedural protections. The result is terrible to behold: a creature that covertly collects sensitive information on political activities that do not – and cannot – constitute a crime, all the while maintaining a nearly impenetrable shield of secrecy. Most troubling of all, the monster is fed by taxpayer dollars that were never intended for this purpose.”

The complaint says "the GAB has obtained and executed search warrants through pre-dawn raids by armed deputies on the homes of targets throughout Wisconsin."

GAB spokesman Reid Magney, reached by telephone, said the agency had no comment on the lawsuit.

In February, O'Keefe and the Wisconsin Club for Growth filed a separate lawsuit against prosecutors attempting to block the probe. A judge halted the probe in May, pending further court rulings.

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