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Prosecutor won’t bring charges against Wisconsin GOP lawmaker over fundraising scheme



FILE - Rep. Janel Brandtjen, chair of the Assembly elections committee (PHOTO: @RepJanel on Facebook)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin prosecutor said Friday that she won’t bring charges against a Republican lawmaker accused of trying to evade state campaign finance laws in order to unseat the powerful speaker of the Assembly.

Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper said she would not be filing felony charges against Rep. Janel Brandtjen as was recommended by the bipartisan Wisconsin Ethics Commission.

She is the fourth county prosecutor to decide against filing charges against former President Donald Trump’s fundraising committee, Brandtjen and others involved in the effort to unseat Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.

Ultimately, the state attorney general, Democrat Josh Kaul, could be asked to prosecute the cases.

The ethics commission alleges that Trump’s fundraising committee and Brandtjen, a Trump ally, conspired in a scheme to evade campaign finance laws to support the Republican primary challenger to Vos in 2022. It forwarded recommendations for filing felony charges to prosecutors in six counties.

Vos angered Trump by firing a former state Supreme Court justice 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 Trump’s effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s win in Wisconsin.

Trump and Brandtjen then tried to unseat Vos by backing a GOP 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 by just 260 votes.

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 as they steered at least $40,000 into the effort to defeat Vos.

Opper said her decision did not “clear Rep. Brandtjen of any wrongdoing, there is just not enough evidence to move forward to let a fact finder decide.”

“I am simply concluding that I cannot prove charges against her,” Opper said in a statement. “While the intercepted communications, such as audio recordings may be compelling in the court of public opinion, they are not in a court of law.”

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