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 February 20 referred the alleged violations to several county prosecutors, based on documents the commission provided on February 23.

The commission alleged that Trump’s fundraising committee and state Representative 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. first reported on the allegations.

The ethics commission alleged 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 alleged 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.

The ethics commission alleged that Steen and his campaign committee told supporters who wanted to contribute more than $1,000 to donate it to the Langlade County Republican Party with “63” in the memo line. That is the Assembly district number in which Steen was running.

Steen’s campaign committee got more than $40,000 from the Langlade County Republican Party, according to the ethics commission.

The ethics commission also alleged that Steen and his campaign got $5,000 in donations from Trump’s Save America PAC, funneled through the Chippewa County Republican Party. Save America sent another $5,000 to the Florence County Republican Party and GOP officials were told to send the money to Langlade County, the commission said.

According to the ethics commission, the former treasurer of the Florence County GOP later told investigators, “It was after the fact that we were like, this sounds like money laundering to me. Did we just screw up really bad? That’s what we felt like.”

The commission alleged that Brandtjen participated in the scheme to secretly direct the donations to county Republican parties as part of the effort to oust Vos.

The commission dismissed a complaint against MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, saying he may have been one of those who participated in the plan by donating $4,000 to the Langlade County Republican Party one week before the primary, but there was not sufficient evidence to recommend prosecution.

Following the revelations on February 23, Republican Assembly leaders conceded that Michael Gableman, a former Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, breached state laws on public records during his investigation, funded by taxpayers, into Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential election. The shame investigation, which did not uncover any substantial fraud, was initiated at the request of Trump.

Vos appointed Gableman in 2021 for the investigation, which has since accrued over $2 million in state expenses. The investigation spearheaded by Gableman resulted in numerous lawsuits, including multiple ones by the liberal watchdog group American Oversight. They argued that the investigation violated state laws mandating the preservation of public records.

Gableman and his legal team argued that the Office of Special Counsel, which he led, systematically erased emails and documents they considered irrelevant to the review funded by taxpayers.

In a recent settlement for one of the lawsuits filed by American Oversight, it was revealed that Assembly officials acknowledged the Office of Special Counsel under Gableman had “violated the Public Records Retention law by unlawfully destroying records without adhering to the required procedures” stipulated by the law.

Scott Bauer and MI Staff

Associated Press

MADISON, Wisconsin

Morry Gash (AP), Samantha Madar (AP) and Mike De Sisti (via AP)