CREW: Wisconsin GOP Leaders Knew Using State Troopers Broke the Law

March 22, 2011- Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his Republican cohorts in the legislature have some explaining to do. The rookie governor rose to national fame after picking a bare knuckled political fight with Democrats over union rights. He showed up on our radar when he illegally sent in the Wisconsin State Patrol (WSP) to search for the Democratic state senators who had fled to Illinois.

On February 23rd, we submitted open records requests to the Office of the Governor, the Office of Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and the Wisconsin State Patrol (which is headed by Sen. Fitzgerald’s father, Stephen Fitzgerald) asking for any records of communications regarding the decision to send troopers out after the legislators. Their responses were surprising.

Several documents produced by Senator Fitzgerald’s office clearly show his staff was well aware there was no legal authority to dispatch the troopers, and that doing so would have required – at the very least – an amendment to Senate rules. No legislative fix was ever passed, but the troopers were deployed anyway.

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, which houses the WSP, claims to have no documents about the whole debacle. That seems unlikely. An unprecedented request made of the WSP by the governor and the majority leader, yet there is not one single record about the affair. Do you believe that? Neither do we.

As for the governor, his office is stonewalling, claiming that due to the “breadth” of the request, it could take weeks for his office to respond. Nearly three weeks later, still nothing. We’ll keep after him.

Back in February, CREW filed a complaint with the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board over the misuse of state troopers, and today provided the board with this new information.

It seems pretty clear that Gov. Walker and Sen. Fitzgerald knowingly violated the law. It’s up to the Government Accountability Board to hold them accountable.


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