MADISON, Wisconsin — A conservative group's director is demanding that a special prosecutor investigate the Milwaukee County district attorney to see if he abused his powers by launching a probe into whether right-leaning organizations illegally coordinated with Republican Gov. Scott Walker's campaign.
Wisconsin Club for Growth Director Eric O'Keefe sent Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm a letter on Friday accusing him of launching the probe because his wife, a St. Francis school union steward, was upset with Walker's law stripping most public workers of nearly all their union rights. O'Keefe also said he suspects Chisholm initiated the probe to help Walker's political opponents.
O'Keefe demanded that Chisholm petition a Milwaukee County circuit judge to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate whether Chisholm committed any crimes.
Messages left Monday at Chisholm's office and with his attorney, Douglas Knott, weren't immediately returned. Reacting to initial accusations earlier this month that Chisholm launched the probe to satisfy a vendetta against Walker, Knott issued a statement calling the allegations ridiculous and desperate.
Walker's union law touched off unprecedented anger in Wisconsin. Tens of thousands of people protested at the state Capitol during the run-up to passage in early 2011 and Democrats forced a number of Republican officeholders, including Walker, into recalls. Walker easily defeated Democrat Tom Barrett in 2012, bolstering his national reputation. He's now mulling a run for president in 2016.
Court documents show the prosecutors began the investigation in 2012. They believe organizations including Wisconsin Club for Growth illegally coordinated with Walker's recall campaign in 2011 and 2012. Thus far no one has been charged.
O'Keefe filed a federal lawsuit in February alleging the probe was an attempt to criminalize political speech. U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa halted the probe in May, but the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision, saying the issue belongs in state courts.
The probe remains on hold, though. The state judge overseeing it effectively stopped it in January by quashing prosecutors' subpoenas, saying he didn't think anything illegal took place. The Wisconsin Supreme Court is deciding whether to take the case.
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