David VanderLeest, the Republican candidate in Tuesday’s Wisconsin recall election against Democratic state Sen. Dave Hansen, is clearly irritated about press coverage regarding revelations about his personal finances and reports of domestic violence (which included a plea of no-contest to two charges of disorderly conduct). So much so, that VanderLeest has announced that he intends to sue Democrats for slander.
As the Green Bay Press Gazette reports: “While VanderLeest said he planned to sue for slander, the alleged violations — including airing TV ads and sending mailers that defame him — would constitute as libel, not slander.”
VanderLeest made a statement to the press, and released a document entitled “Transcript” from the event, though it contains shorthand that one might make in a rush transcription before reformatting with the full words. Key quote:
False accusations have plagued this campaign. False slander Chicago style mob politics must stop in WI. The buck stops here. We are not going to allow these tactics to destroy tangible debates on real issues which face WI. The people will stand not for it, and neither will I. I truth is I was never found guilt of Domestic Violence in the State of WI. I was given primary care of my child in a messy divorce, and was never found guilty of abusing anyone. For these reasons I will be filling a slander lawsuit against Friends of Dave Hansen, DLCC, Greater WI Political Fund, We are WI, Politiscoop, The Green Bay Progressive, and One WI Now.
In addition, VanderLeest’s statement claimed that he and his campaign “have also learned today” that the Hansen campaign and the various Democratic organizations above are under investigation by the state Department of Justice and the Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections in the state, for “civil and criminal RICO violations stemming from coordinating campaigns.”
When asked for comment, the Wisconsin Department of Justice sent TPM a copy of a two-page complaint, by filed Monday morning by Dave Boyce of Green Bay — who was previously a petition circulator for VanderLeest’s candidacy. The document’s first page lists the Hansen campaign and the various Democratic organizations as targets, followed only by a one-paragraph complaint that alleges wrongdoing.
“We received this today and will review it,” said Assistant Attorney General Steve Means, via e-mail. “At this time, it would be premature to say we are investigating.”
Here is the complaint section of the document, in total:
I want to file a complaint against any and all groups listed on page one for violations to the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) for both civil and criminal conspiracy for illegal coordination of political activity which violates campaign finance and election law which govern elections in the state of Wisconsin. It is evidence that these groups are working together, pooling resources, staff, and coordinating their efforts in Senator Hansen’s recall race. I make this complaint in good faith, and will look forward to the outcome of your investigation into the matter. The coordination of these groups is not legal in WI. Any person with eyes can see after reviewing the material sent to homes, or from watching TV ads sponsored by these various groups, that a direct violation of campaign law has occurred. I know these are serious accusations. I know that you must investigate these accusations with an impartial nature.
The GAB informed TPM that they are only permitted to confirm the existence of a complaint, after it was already made public knowledge, and could make no further public comment.
To be clear, VanderLeest was not the GOP’s preferred candidate. Instead, Republicans became stuck with him after their originally recruited candidate, state Rep. John Nygren, failed to submit the required 400 valid petition signatures. Nygren submitted slightly over 400 signatures for himself — despite the fact that Republicans had been able to gather 18,000 signatures to trigger a recall — with not enough of a buffer for when a few them were disqualified. Nygren initially filed a lawsuit to get onto the ballot, but lost in court and announced he would not further appeal the decision.