Above the Law? WisDOJ Records Confirm J.B. Van Hollen Purchased Illegal Firearm

Nov 30, 2014

Tea Party Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen surely hoped to leave office quietly, but recently released records that confirm a whistleblower’s account of an illegal firearm operation at the Department of Justice look to disrupt his exit.

Documents obtained by the Wisconsin State Journal through a series of open records requests confirm allegations by Dan Bethards, a former DOJ agent, that fellow agent Jay Smith had illegally manufactured and sold firearms. Bethards was fired from DOJ in October 2013 after reporting Smith to state and federal authorities.

In an email to an investigator at the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Smith acknowledged that he had made and sold guns for others without holding a firearms license as required by federal law. Records also indicate that Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen purchased two of the illegally manufactured firearms from Smith and that top DOJ officials had been aware that Smith was making and selling guns without a license since 2007.

The DOJ declined to conduct an internal investigation into Bethards’ allegations against Smith, instead opting to conduct an “internal review” that determined no violations of work or policy rule had occurred, nor any violations of state or federal law. According to a DOJ policy manual obtained by the State Journal, “all alleged or suspected violations of laws, ordinances, rules, regulations or orders brought to the Administrator’s attention shall be investigated.”

“Since when can the state’s top cop purchase an illegal firearm without consequence? Does J.B. Van Hollen just think he’s above the law?” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate said Monday. “Between reports that his office mishandled online child pornography cases and now confirmation that one of his own agents was making and selling guns illegally, including two to Van Hollen, public safety was clearly on the back burner at J.B. Van Hollen’s Department of Justice.”