Politics

Wisconsin GOP rep. questions state DOJ’s ethics after state attorney advises fleeing Dems, shows political support in private e-mail

Wisconsin state Rep. Steve Nass is calling for an investigation of state Assistant Attorney General Thomas Bellavia after he sent an e-mail offering advice to two of the 14 fleeing Democratic senators on how to avoid getting caught by Wisconsin law enforcement. The e-mail also shows where Bellavia’s political support lies.

“I am a political supporter of your current efforts regarding the budget repair bill,” Bellavia wrote in a February 27 e-mail to Democratic state Sens. Joe Erpenbach and Mark Miller. Bellavia advised Erpenbach and Miller that, in other states, they should avoid counties that border Wisconsin as the state law enforcement may have jurisdiction there.

“If this statute [section 175.46] were to apply to the present situation of any of the 14 Democratic senators, it might allow Wisconsin law enforcement officers to cross into a border county, such as Winnebago County in Illinois, and take whatever actions they would be able to take in Wisconsin,” Bellavia wrote to the Democrats.

Nass sent a letter to Wisconsin’s attorney general, J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican, requesting a full investigation of the matter – looking specifically at whether Bellavia used official resources in his role as an assistant attorney general to gather or disseminate the information on how to break the law that he provided to the Democrats.

“I suspect that the Department of Justice will simply circle the wagons and attempt to cover up this matter,” Nass said in a statement on Thursday. “I believe there is no other choice left but obtaining outside legal counsel to defend the interests of the Legislature and the taxpayers.”

Nass questioned the ability of the state’s Justice Department to fairly represent Wisconsin’s citizens in defending Gov. Scott Walker’s Budget Repair Bill.

“I have little faith the Wisconsin Department of Justice can be trusted to fairly and impartially represent the taxpayers on all matters relating to the Budget Repair Bill becoming law,” Nass said. “In my view, this assistant attorney general has crossed the line and should do the honorable thing and resign immediately.”

UPDATE 4:28 p.m.:

In an e-mail to The Daily Caller, Wisconsin Department of Justice spokesman Steve Means downplayed the conflict of interest allegations Nass made in his statement.

“We are aware of the email,” Means said. “It was sent from a personal e-mail address and Mr. Bellavia was not acting on behalf of the Wisconsin Department of Justice with regard to any of the matters he was addressing.”

Also, Means said the e-mail doesn’t mean the DOJ can’t fairly and properly defend the Budget Repair Bill.

“Anyone following the litigation over the Budget Repair bill will quickly recognize the absurdity of Nass’ suggestion that DOJ is not vigorously defending the legislature’s lawmaking prerogatives and other weighty constitutional principles that District Attorney Ozanne seeks to cast aside,” Means said.

It remains unclear as to whether or not Bellavia will be punished or be allowed to handle Budget Repair Bill litigation.