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Ethics panel recommends felony charges for Trump committee, lawmaker

The Wisconsin Ethics Commission provided documents on Friday showing that it referred the alleged violations to several county prosecutors on Tuesday.
Ethics panel recommends felony charges for Trump committee, lawmaker
Posted at 2:37 PM, Feb 23, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-23 14:37:22-05

The Wisconsin Ethics Commission has recommended that state prosecutors file felony charges against a fundraising committee for former President Donald Trump and a Republican state lawmaker related to an effort to unseat Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.

The ethics commission on Tuesday referred the alleged violations to several county prosecutors, based on documents the commission provided Friday. The commission alleges that Trump's fundraising committee and state Rep. Janel Brandtjen, a Trump ally, conspired in a scheme to evade campaign finance laws to support the Republican primary challenger to Vos in 2022.

Vos angered Trump after he fired a former state Supreme Court justice whom Vos had hired to investigate Trump's discredited allegations of fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Vos launched the probe under pressure from Trump, but eventually distanced himself from the false claims of election fraud and calls to overturn President Joe Biden's win in Wisconsin.

Trump and Brandtjen backed Vos's primary opponent, Adam Steen. Trump called Steen a "motivated patriot" when endorsing him shortly before the 2022 primary. Vos, the longest-serving Assembly speaker in Wisconsin history, defeated Steen in the primary by just 260 votes. 

Steen is currently backing an effort to recall Vos from office.

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The ethics commission alleges that Trump's Save America political action committee, Brandtjen, Republican Party officials in three counties and Steen's campaign conspired to avoid state fundraising limits in the effort to defeat Vos — steering at least $40,000 into the bid.

The ethics commission recommended that charges be brought against the Trump fundraising committee, Brandtjen, Steen's campaign, eight other individuals and three county Republican parties. The commission alleges that those involved took advantage of Wisconsin laws that allow for unlimited donations to political parties, but then illegally steered the money to Steen. 

State law caps individual donations to Assembly candidates at $1,000. Members of the ethics commission said in documents sent to county prosecutors that if they don't initiate charges within 60 days, the commission will go to another district attorney or the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

Neither Brandtjen, Vos, Steen nor Trump's campaign immediately responded to messages seeking comment. WisPolitics.com first reported on the allegations.


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