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Lawsuit by Eric O'Keefe and Wisconsin Club for Growth against the Wisconsin GAB Prompts Legislative Change and Favorable Resolution Regarding Future Conduct

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Dec. 17, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Graves Garrett, LLC is pleased to announce that the firm's clients, Wisconsin Club for Growth and Eric O'Keefe, have successfully resolved their lawsuit against the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. In May 2014, the Club and O'Keefe sued the GAB on behalf of all Wisconsin taxpayers due to the GAB's role in a long-running "John Doe" investigation. The GAB and prosecutors used the John Doe investigation to harass and intimidate conservative groups and political figures not only in Wisconsin, but across the country. The Club and O'Keefe sought a declaration that the GAB violated Wisconsin law through its illegal expenditures in the John Doe and overstepped its authority at taxpayer expense. They also sought disclosure of GAB documents detailing its role in the investigation.

Documents and deposition testimony obtained by the Club and O'Keefe revealed that the GAB, an agency with authority to pursue civil enforcement actions, worked to control the criminal John Doe investigation from the shadows, and that the GAB funded and operated the investigation alongside Milwaukee County prosecutors. "GAB Ethics Division Administrator Jonathan Becker spearheaded and controlled the hiring of John Doe special prosecutor Fran Schmitz, and the GAB paid his bills. Equally troubling, GAB assigned staff to work on the investigation who were biased against the targets and motivated by political animus," said Edward Greim, who along with Todd Graves represented O'Keefe and the Club in the lawsuit.

Under the settlement announced today, the GAB admits "it had contact with prosecutors about the subject of John Doe II and later made expenditures in conducting GAB Investigation No. 2013-02 in cooperation with prosecutors conducting the John Doe II investigation," and agrees that its Board, staff, and agents will refrain from funding and assisting future criminal prosecutions in violation of its statutory authority. The settlement prohibits the GAB from researching and drafting legal documents on behalf of law enforcement and third-party groups for use in a criminal investigation or prosecution, and also bars GAB staff from assisting law enforcement without Board approval.

The settlement also removes secrecy restrictions on tens of thousands of pages of documents and internal emails, which GAB staff, including Kevin Kennedy, labored to shield from public view. "We are pleased that the GAB, an agency whose mission is to 'ensure accountability in government,' has finally agreed to lift the veil of secrecy over documents and testimony that show its true role in the John Doe investigation," said Greim. "The public has only seen the tip of the iceberg, and we look forward to sharing our findings over the coming weeks."

This settlement follows the success of Graves Garrett's clients before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which earlier this month reaffirmed its ruling that the John Doe investigation was unconstitutional from its inception. Many of the facts regarding the GAB's involvement in John Doe II derived from discovery in this lawsuit. After these facts came to light, the Wisconsin legislature passed a bill dismantling the GAB and creating a separate Ethics and Elections Commission. The bill, which Governor Scott Walker signed into law yesterday, also eliminates the agency's blank check for secret investigations. The GAB's settlement will bind the successor commissions.

"The GAB systematically violated its enabling statute, wielding its power of the purse and using its own embedded staff to influence the criminal prosecutors who were presented as the face of John Doe II to the courts. After nearly 20 months of legal proceedings, we are pleased the GAB has admitted its role in the John Doe investigation and agreed not to violate the law in the future," said Greim.

Graves Garrett LLC

Graves Garrett specializes in complex commercial litigation, free speech and civil rights litigation, and white collar criminal defense. The firm frequently represents individuals, candidates, corporations, nonprofit educational and advocacy corporations, and political committees.

CONTACT: Burton Taylor 816.812.7135 btaylor@proventusconsulting.comSource:Graves Garrett, LLC