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GAB spent nothing for outside investigators over past 2 years

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GAB spent nothing on outside investigators over past two years

The Government Accountability Board didn't spend any money on outside investigations over the past two years.

Wisconsin's government ethics and elections watchdog spent nothing on outside investigators over the past two years, a noticeable drop from previous years.

Previously the agency consistently spent about $45,000 in years when elections took place, including the 2011 and 2012 recall elections, according to the Government Accountability Board. In 2009-10, a non-election year, the agency spent $17,300.

In 2013-14, a non-election year in which the agency funded a secret John Doe investigation into Gov. Scott Walker's recall campaign, the amount spiked to $178,900. But in the 2014-15 election year the amount dropped to zero and in the current year that ends June 30, the amount was zero as of June 1.

GAB spokesman Reid Magney said "the Board chose not to hire special investigators in the last two years because staff had sufficient time to conduct the investigations and the cases did not require extensive field work."

He didn't comment on what was different about the caseload in 2014-15 compared with 2010-11.

Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause Wisconsin, said two years ago was right around the time conservative groups and Republicans in the Legislature began raising questions about the GAB's role in the John Doe investigation, which was shut down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court last year.

"All of that may have had a chilling effect on the GAB going forward with investigations," Heck said.

Heck noted the funding for outside investigators was not capped by the Legislature. That changed when the Legislature dismantled the GAB last year. The new state Elections and Ethics commissions have $250,000 set aside for outside investigations and will have to seek permission from the Legislature's budget committee to exceed that amount.

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