Van Hollen Refusal to Investigate Gableman Misconduct Contrasts Election Year Promises

Candidate Van Hollen Promised to 'Make Enforcement of State Elections Law' Principal Assignment of DOJ

MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen’s refusal to investigate Supreme Court Justice Elect-Mike Gableman for dozens of phone calls made from his Ashland County District Attorney’s office and cell phone to political donors, partisan campaign and party offices runs in stark contrast to Van Hollen’s public integrity promises as a 2006 Attorney General candidate.

One Wisconsin Now’s (OWN) request for investigation was formally refused by Van Hollen’s office Thursday, in a letter that states the Attorney General has “no direct authority to investigate or prosecute the matters” OWN raised regarding Gableman’s campaign activity using state resources. Both Gableman and Van Hollen were appointed Ashland County District Attorney by Republican governors.

“We all know Attorney General Van Hollen keeps losing experienced crime fighters at the Department of Justice, but surely he can spare someone or find some way to investigate these serious allegations of misconduct by Mike Gableman,” said OWN Executive Director Scot Ross. “On government corruption, Van Hollen sounds a lot less tough on crime than he did as a candidate.”

According to his 2006 campaign website, Van Hollen said:

  • “I will create a new Elections and Public Integrity Unit within the Wisconsin Department of Justice and would make enforcement of state elections law one [sic] its principal assignments.”
  • “Corruption in state government has dominated the political headlines lately. What more can the Department of Justice do to combat it?”
  • “My campaign was first to raise the issue of government ethics in regards to the caucus scandal…”

[Source: Van Hollen for Attorney General, cached website]

OWN requested Van Hollen intervene after the Government Accountability Board and the Burnett County District Attorney, and the current Ashland County District Attorney Sean Duffy, a long-time Gableman supporter, said they did not have jurisdiction to investigate Gableman’s conduct. GAB was created after the “caucus scandal” to investigate the activity OWN is accusing Gableman of committing. Burnett County is where Gableman currently resides and Ashland County is from where Gableman made the calls.

In June 2002, Gableman was the host of a fundraiser for then-Gov. Scott McCallum. Phone records posted on the OWN website and included in the complaint (records available online) show that in less than two months, Gableman used his Ashland County District Attorney’s office and cell phones to make dozens of calls from his taxpayer-financed office in advance of the fundraiser. These included calls to:

* Eleven calls to Mary Stitt, a fundraiser for McCallum. Stitt also raised funds for Van Hollen’s 2006 campaign and for Gableman. * Ten calls to Laura Gralton, a fundraiser for McCallum and the listed contact for the McCallum June 2002 fundraiser. * Twenty-one calls to nine individuals who made contributions to McCallum in the weeks adjacent to the June 2002 fundraiser. * Five total calls to the McCallum for Governor campaign and the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

“Attorney General Van Hollen’s change of heart on possible campaign violations raises serious questions,” said Ross. “Is it that he’s unwilling to investigate a fellow Republican, or that he’s afraid to take on someone in power? As the state’s top law enforcement officical, does he really no way to investigate alleged violations of state law?”

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