- Associated Press - Thursday, December 21, 2017

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The Latest on calls to investigate former members of Wisconsin elections agency (all times local):

6:25 p.m.

The administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission is accusing the two highest-ranking Republicans in the Legislature of slander.

Elections Commission head Michael Haas sent a letter late Thursday to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Speaker Robin Vos. In it, Haas says statements they’ve made that there was evidence he and other staff at the former Government Accountability Board were potentially committing crimes has “no factual or legal basis.”

His letter came shortly after Fitzgerald joined with two other Republicans in voting to allow the attorney general to open a wide-scale investigation into former employees of the GAB related to their work on secret John Doe investigations.

Haas says they have been defaming and slandering his personal and professional reputation as well as that of other former GAB staff. He says, “I am requesting that you stop trashing my name and reputation.”

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3:15 p.m.

Wisconsin Senate Republicans have voted to authorize Attorney General Brad Schimel to launch an investigation into the conduct of former workers at the now-dissolved agency that oversaw state elections and ethics laws.

The move Thursday came even as the chairman of the Wisconsin Elections Commission said that the Republican Schimel can’t be trusted to do an “objective and complete investigation.”

The Senate organizational committee voted 3-2, with all Republicans in favor and Democrats against, to authorize the investigation into the now-defunct Government Accountability Board. Democrats decried the move, with Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling calling it “an egregious abuse of power.”

Elections Commission chairman Mark Thomsen wrote lawmakers earlier Thursday urging them to approve an independent or bipartisan review instead of Schimel. Thomsen is a Democrat.

___

11:10 a.m.

The chairman of the Wisconsin Elections Commission says Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel can’t be trusted to conduct an “objective and complete investigation” into former employees of the now-defunct Government Accountability Board.

Elections chair Mark Thomsen sent a letter to legislative leaders Thursday asking instead to order an independent review by an “impartial factfinder or by a bipartisan factfinding body.”

The letter came hours before a Republican-controlled Senate committee was to vote on approving an investigation by Schimel into activities of the former GAB.

Republicans contend previous secret John Doe investigations into alleged illegal campaign activity involving Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans was a partisan witch hunt.

Thomsen says he does not believe any new investigation is properly part of any current court proceeding.

___

10:50 a.m.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission is meeting to discuss a call from Republican legislative leaders that its administrator resign.

The commission was meeting Friday to talk about the letter from Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. They have asked that Ethics administrator Brian Bell resign, citing concerns over partisan influence remaining from the former Government Accountability Board.

Bell has refused to step down and the Ethics Commission has questioned findings made in a report by Attorney General Brad Schimel that was critical of Bell’s role protecting secret information collected during a now-closed investigation into Gov. Scott Walker.

Ethics commission chairman David Halbrooks said Thursday he still stands behind Bell, but he wants the full commission to discuss the letter calling for his resignation.

___

10:03 a.m.

A Wisconsin Senate committee is expected to approve authorizing an investigation into the actions of former employees of the state’s now disbanded agency that looked into ethics complaints against politicians.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald wants the state Department of Justice to take a closer look at what employees of the former Government Accountability board did during John Doe investigations into Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans.

Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel earlier this month released results of his look into how documents related to the John Doe probes were leaked to a newspaper. That report accused of the former GAB of being “weaponized” to make partisan attacks against Republicans.

Fitzgerald says he wants Schimel to take a broader look at “all activities” of GAB staffed named in the earlier report.


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