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Former US Attorney Santelle hosted fundraisers for Democrats

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Former U.S. Attorney James Santelle violated federal and departmental rules by helping organize a fundraiser for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, a federal report released Tuesday said, adding to the prosecutor’s missteps that have come to light since he abruptly resigned last year.

The report from the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General said Santelle held a gathering for Burke at his home, and had planned another fundraiser for the Democratic candidate for Wisconsin Attorney General before it was scrapped at the department’s request.

Those activities violated federal and departmental rules that ban prosecutors’ involvement in partisan politics, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/2bw9H4I ) reported.

The report concluded that Santelle’s political activities “exhibit a disregard for safeguarding the (Justice Department’s) role as a non-partisan institution.”

It comes after a report showed in July that Santelle had misused a government credit card by racking up $4,440 in dry-cleaning bills, restaurant charges, an airline ticket and other personal expenses. Santelle resigned in July 2015 as the top prosecutor for Wisconsin’s eastern half amid a federal investigation into his actions.

Santelle didn’t deny organizing the fundraisers in a statement issued through an attorney on Tuesday. But he said he recognized the importance of keeping his work separate from political activities. He was appointed to the post by President Barack Obama in 2010.

“I have always done my very best as a government official to be truthful and straightforward, including and at every step of these investigations. I am disappointed that the OIG believes otherwise,” he said.

Violations of the Hatch Act, the federal law that bans some political involvement of government officials, can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and a five-year freeze on working for the federal government.

Jeff Cramer, a former federal prosecutor in Chicago, said the punishment would undoubtedly have been more severe if Santelle were still in office. But he said there could still be repercussions, including a possible suspension of Santelle’s law license.

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