By Adam Tobias | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON, Wis. — The Citizens for Responsible Government Network didn’t want to sit on its hands and wait for a politically charged John Doe investigation that likely would never come.
So the Milwaukee grassroots political watchdog has filed a petition of enforcement with the Wisconsin Department of Justice alleging one of the area’s top law enforcement officials has violated state campaign finance laws.
The petition claims Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat, broke several state laws during his bid this year for Wisconsin attorney general by turning in false reports, making anonymous disbursements and spending campaign cash for nonpolitical purposes.
All are Class I felonies, according to the petition.
Citizens for Responsible Government spokesman Chris Kliesmet told Wisconsin Reporter on Thursday his agency found it important to submit the petition, partly because it could never count on a secret John Doe probe.
For nearly two years, Democratic Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, his assistant DAs, special prosecutor Francis Schmitz and another investigator from the Government Accountability Board have been secretly investigating the Wisconsin Club for Growth and several other conservative groups.
They maintain the organizations may have illegally coordinated with the campaign of Republican Gov. Scott Walker during Wisconsin’s partisan recall election in 2012. But no one has been charged in that multi-county investigation.
“We see law enforcement officials like Mr. Ozanne and Mr. Chisholm grasping at every straw to try to find wrongdoing, and here we’ve got (Ozanne) in flagrant violation of the law and nothing was said,” Kliesmet told Wisconsin Reporter. “The law has to be the same for everyone, not some people catch a big break and everybody else we’re going to examine under a microscope. That’s what offends us … it’s time for people justice.
Citizens for Responsible Government argues in the petition the balances detailed in Ozanne’s campaign reports were inconsistent and that several expenditures were not identified correctly.
Ozanne’s July 2014 report contained more than 30 nondescript transactions, including 20 labeled as “CHECK” and 10 cash withdrawals from an ATM, according to the petition. These anonymous transactions totaled more than $18,000 during the six-month reporting period, the petition states.
“From our standpoint, we are very meticulous about those report, so we take it very seriously … there seems to be a cavalier attitude that we can just throw anything together and toss it in and hope it sticks,” Kliesmet said. “It’s just unbecoming of someone in that office. We need to start talking about this stuff. Otherwise it will all be swept under the rug.”
The petition states the violations are mutually enforceable through both civil and criminal penalties.
Wisconsin Reporter contacted Ozanne’s office Thursday morning for comment but didn’t get a response.
Ozanne was one of three candidates vying in the August primary for the Democratic nomination for the Wisconsin attorney general’s seat held by Republican J.B. Van Hollen. Jefferson County DA Susan Happ was eventually declared the winner and will face Republican candidate Brad Schimel in the November election.