MADISON, Wisconsin — One of the central figures fighting an investigation into Gov. Scott Walker's 2012 recall campaign and conservative groups says law enforcement raids of several houses left the homeowners with reactions "similar to a rape victim."
Walker's campaign quickly distanced itself from the comments by Eric O'Keefe, director of the conservative group Wisconsin Club for Growth.
"Eric O'Keefe, who has no ties to the campaign, deserves nothing less than outright condemnation for his egregiously offensive remarks," said Walker's campaign spokeswoman Alleigh Marre.
O'Keefe made the comments during an interview Thursday with WISN-AM. He said he had spoken with many people whose homes were targeted as part of what he called "synchronized paramilitary raids just after sun up" as part of the investigation.
"I have read some about rape and talked to people about rape, and I am saying this very deliberately," he said in the radio interview. "The reactions that I got from the people I interviewed were similar to a rape victim."
O'Keefe has been the most public figure fighting the investigation into whether his group and others improperly coordinated campaign spending efforts in recall campaigns, filing a federal lawsuit trying to stop it and requesting a special prosecutor investigate Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm for abuse of power.
O'Keefe said in the 30-minute radio interview that he is speaking out because he believes a subpoena he got in 2013 ordering him not to talk about the probe is unconstitutional. O'Keefe also continued to defend the work of Wisconsin Club for Growth saying it did nothing illegal.
The investigation remains on hold because a judge overseeing it in January blocked the issuance of subpoenas. An appeal of that decision is pending in front of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Law enforcement agents raided homes of nine people connected with the investigation in both 2011 and 2013, O'Keefe said during the interview. He said the early-morning raids were designed to intimidate the targets, amounted to "domestic spying," and were done at homes where children were present.
A telephone message left for O'Keefe at the Wisconsin Club for Growth office was not immediately returned. He also did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Chisholm's attorney, Doug Knott, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
But Stephanie Wilson, a spokeswoman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, tried to turn O'Keefe's comments into an issue in the governor's race.
"This is the company that Scott Walker keeps," Wilson said. "It is disgusting, insulting and outrageous for such a close ally of Governor Walker to compare the actions of sworn law enforcement officials investigating serious allegations of criminal wrongdoing to the most vile and heinous crime against women that there is."
O'Keefe's lawsuit arguing the investigation violated his free-speech rights was rejected by a federal appeals court last month, which said it belongs in state courts. Last week, O'Keefe requested a special prosecutor look into whether Chisholm abused his powers by launching the probe.
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