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Waukesha DA declines charges again in campaign finance investigation

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(The Center Square) – There once again won’t be any charges in the campaign finance case that saw allegations of misconduct against the man who challenged Wisconsin’s assembly speaker.

Waukesha County District Attorney Sue Opper announced she will not file

charges against Adam Steen for allegedly in what state ethics investigators said was a conspiracy to skirt Wisconsin’s campaign finance law.

“While the commission did also request the investigation and prosecution of ‘any other person’ I deem appropriate, I do not have the necessary resources, nor do I have investigators with jurisdiction to act in Racine county. The investigation which was conducted by the investigators hired by the commission is substantially incomplete in many aspects. Before any reasonable

decision could be reached on the merits of a criminal prosecution of other persons, a significant, lengthy, and professional investigation would have to be completed. as I stated I do not have the resources to complete the task,” Opper wrote in a statement.

Opper said much the same thing she declined to bring charges against Rep. Janel Brantdjen, R- Menomonee Falls, in the same case.

As with the Brandtjen decision, Opper once again said her decision not to file charges doesn’t mean Steen has been exonerated.

“The decision does not clear those involved of any wrongdoing I am only concluding that there is insufficient evidence on which to base a charging decision,” Opper added.

The case against Steen and Brandtjen was born out of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission’s findings that they colluded to launder money through various campaign committees to get around Wisconsin’s cap on donations. That money was then funneled to Steen’s primary challenge to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in 2022

The case before the Ethics Commission was fueled by leaked phone calls from Steen’s campaign office. Opper said those calls would not have made it into court.

“I conclude these recorded calls were not obtained by legal means and could not be used in a criminal prosecution. While it is true that according to Wisconsin state law it is not unlawful for a person to intercept an oral communication where the person is a party to the communication or where one of the parties to the communication has given prior consent disclosure (which is the claim of the staffer), disclosure use of the intercepted communication is a different question,”

Opper wrote.

Opper’s decision is the latest to not prosecute anyone in the case. She previously

passed on charges against Brandtjen, and prosecutors in other Wisconsin counties have also done the same.

Still, Opper said the Wisconsin Ethics Commission can push the case ahead of it wants.

“It is worth noting that the commission only had to act upon a finding of reasonable suspicion initially to authorize an investigation, and then probable cause to make a referral. These burdens are substantially lower than proof beyond a reasonable doubt which is necessary for a criminal conviction,” Opper concluded. “The Commission should, at its discretion, prosecute a civil violation of the law where the burden of proof and constitutional rights of the accused are far less stringent.”

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