State oversight panel recommends felony charges against Trump committee, GOP lawmaker

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A state watchdog panel has recommended felony charges against a fundraising committee for former President Donald Trump as well as other Wisconsin Republicans in part of a far-reaching alleged scheme related to campaign funds, according to a report by the Ethics Commission.

The commission recommended local district attorneys investigate the Save America Fundraising Committee, a fundraising group for Trump, Adam Steen, a former primary challenger to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, and eight other Republicans including three state GOP parties.

WisPolitics first reported on the referrals.

The records allege Steen, State Rep. Janel Brandtjen, and Save American were involved in a scheme they say was designed to skirt campaign finance laws to try and unseat Vos, one of the most powerful Republican lawmakers that has had a contentious relationship with the former president since his loss in 2020.

Leading up to the 2022 election, at least $40,000 was steered to Steen's campaign by the Langlade County GOP, according to the ethic reports. Steen ended up narrowly losing to Vos by fewer than 300 votes.

The two other county GOP parties involved include Chippewa County and Florence County.

Steen, who was endorsed by Trump, narrowly lost to Vos by fewer than 300 votes. 

The ethics commission told county prosecutors that if they don't initiate charges within 60 days, they will refer charges to the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

Racine County District Attorney Patricia Hanson confirmed they received a referral from the commission regarding Steen's campaign. Hanson said they will determine if an additional investigation is needed.

Prosecutors in Waukesha County also told CBS 58 they received a referral and once they have opportunity to review it, they'll determine the next steps.

The Chippewa County District Attorney decline to take action and told CBS 58 he'll be referring the matter back to the commission. 

"As both a past and present member of the Chippewa County Republican Party it would be a conflict for me to take any action regarding these allegations," said Chippewa County District Attorney Wade Newell. 

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