State Response On The County Exec Nomination Paper Fiasco

After the fiasco around the nomination papers for Milwaukee County Exec earlier this year, I contacted the Wisconsin Department of Justice and the Milwaukee County District Attorney. Election law/rules were violated and a number of candidates were removed from the ballot. Three candidates hired a contractor who used some of the same solicitors to collect signatures for all three of them. This is a Class I felony with the maximum penalty for such an offense of up to 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

My question at the time was are there criminal charges coming for the soliciting company who actually broke the law? Well…so far…who knows?

I never got a reply from the DA. But here is what the DOJ sent me:

April 1, 2020

Dear Mr. Heinzelman:

I am writing in response to your most recent correspondence to Attorney General Josh Kaul wherein you ask whether there has been consideration of criminal charges against signature collection contractors in the Milwaukee County Executive race.You reference the disqualification of two potential nominees and ask whether there may be criminal charges against the contractors who actually collected non-qualifying signatures.

I am afraid the Attorney General and this office cannot provide the assistance you have requested. The legal authority of the Attorney General and the Wisconsin Department of Justice is specifically defined, and limited, by laws passed by the Wisconsin Legislature. Under these laws, our principal function is to act as legal counsel to the Governor, the two branches of the Legislature,and state agencies.Our criminal litigation is limited to assisting district attorneys at their request or directing prosecution for violations of selected statutes.This office does not make general initial prosecution decisions.

Most state law prosecution decisions are made by district attorneys. The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office may have information about your question. Contact information for that office is:

Milwaukee County District Attorney

821 West State Street, Room 405

Milwaukee, WI 53233

Phone: (414) 278-4646

Finally, if you have evidence that a crime has been committed, we would suggest you contact your local police or sheriff’s departments or district attorney’s office. If you do so, be prepared to provide all relevant information and understand that they have broad authority to decide whether or not specific matters should be investigated or pursued.

Thank you for contacting us. I regret that we cannot be of more assistance, but hope you can understand that we must act within the constraints of our legal authority.


Mike Murphy

Assistant Attorney General

So, if this wasn’t a crime, why were candidates pulled from the ballot? What recourse do the candidates have? And if it is a crime, why are there no charges?


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