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Wisconsin governor part of criminal scheme, prosecutors say

By Scott Bauer

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 05:45 p.m. HST, Jun 19, 2014


MADISON, Wis. » Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, took part in a nationwide criminal scheme to coordinate fundraising with conservative groups, prosecutors said in court documents unsealed Thursday.

No charges have been filed against Walker or any member of his staff. And both sides are arguing in court over whether the activities are covered by election laws. The documents, some written in December as prosecutors defended their investigation, for the first time publicly put Walker himself at the center of the examination of campaigns in 2011 and 2012.

The investigation into fundraising involving Walker and his campaign, the Wisconsin Club for Growth, the state Chamber of Commerce and other groups began in 2012. Walker, who rose to fame by passing a law that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers, was facing a recall election. But the probe has been on hold since May, when a federal judge ruled it was a breach of Wisconsin Club for Growth's free-speech rights and temporarily halted it.

State prosecutors said in the December filing that Walker, former chief of staff Keith Gilkes, top adviser R.J. Johnson and campaign operative Deborah Jordahl discussed illegal fundraising and coordination with national political groups and prominent Republican figures, including GOP strategist Karl Rove.

"The scope of the criminal scheme under investigation is expansive," lead prosecutor Francis Schmitz wrote in a Dec. 9 court filing objecting to an attempt by Walker's campaign and other conservative groups to quash subpoenas. "It includes criminal violations of multiple elections laws" including filing false campaign-finance reports, Schmitz wrote.

Walker suggested that the documents mean little or nothing, given that his campaign's position has already prevailed twice in court.

"I'm not asking people to take my word for it, or political allies," the governor said. "I'm saying look at two independent judges, at both the state and federal level, who did not buy those arguments and were rather aggressive in telling those folks to stop proceeding with that because they didn't think it was right."

The uproar over the collective-bargaining law led to the recall, which Walker won, making him the first governor in U.S. history to defeat a recall.

"The evidence shows an extensive coordination scheme that pervaded nearly every aspect of the campaign activities" during 2011 elections that decided control of the state Senate and the 2012 recall election, Schmitz said in the December filing.

Under Wisconsin law, third-party political groups are allowed to work together on campaign activity, but they are barred from coordinating that work with actual candidates. The Wisconsin Club for Growth has argued the prohibition does not apply to it because it does not specifically tell people how to vote, or run ads with phrases like "vote for" a certain candidate. The federal judge who halted the investigation and the judge overseeing it both agreed with that argument.

Prosecutors, including Schmitz and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, have appealed the matter to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Chisholm is a Democrat, and Schmitz has described himself as a Republican who voted for Walker.

Both men have declined to comment about the probe, which is sanctioned under a law that allows prosecutors to compel people to testify and turn over documents, but bars them from discussing the matter publicly.

Prosecutors say the national Club for Growth raised concerns about potential illegal coordination with the Wisconsin group and Walker's campaign as early as 2009. A spokesman for the national group declined to comment.

Johnson, in addition to being Walker's top campaign strategist, was also an adviser for the Wisconsin Club for Growth.

He, Gilkes and Jordahl did not immediately return messages seeking comment left by The Associated Press.

While Walker eyes a run for president in 2016, he's seeking re-election this year against likely Democratic nominee Mary Burke. Both Gilkes and Johnson are working on his re-election campaign.

Prosecutors had sought the release of the documents, and the Wisconsin Club for Growth did not object.

It's been known for months that the investigation focused on allegations of illegal coordination between the Wisconsin club, Walker's campaign and other conservative groups. But until Thursday, it was not clear that prosecutors saw Walker as having a central role.

Wisconsin Club for Growth attorney Andrew Grossman said the public has the right to see the documents.

The papers show how prosecutors "adopted a blatantly unconstitutional interpretation of Wisconsin law that they used to launch a secret criminal investigation targeting conservatives throughout Wisconsin," Grossman said Thursday in an email. "Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and this is a story that needs to be told to prevent more abuses and to hold ... prosecutors accountable for violating the rights of Wisconsinites."

Prosecutors have defended the investigation as a legitimate probe into whether Wisconsin's campaign-finance laws were violated and denied that they were on a partisan witch hunt.

An attorney for prosecutors, Sam Leib, said the filings show that prosecutors were legally justified in their actions and "the process continues."

Associated Press writer Dinesh Ramde contributed to this report from Brookfield, Wisconsin.

Online:

The documents are posted here: http://apne.ws/1ypCtto







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eoe wrote:
Shocker.
on June 19,2014 | 03:54PM
ISCREAM wrote:
The headline is more than a little comical...since the prosecution was tossed out of court and this is just the revealing of documents...btw...the prosecutor is a Democrat that has since been disbarred....
on June 19,2014 | 04:38PM
BluesBreaker wrote:
If you have to make up slanderous claims to build a case, you don't have much of a case. Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm was not disbarred and the case is very much alive, much to the chagrin of Gov. Walker. He's toast.
on June 19,2014 | 07:22PM
DowntownGreen wrote:
Maybe he/she should read FOX News more often: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/06/19/prosecutors-gov-walker-part-criminal-scheme/?intcmp=latestnews
on June 19,2014 | 08:35PM
Slow wrote:
Not guilty until convicted but another potential Republican candidate besmirched. Looks like the only ones left are Mitt and Sarah.
on June 19,2014 | 04:35PM
Ronin006 wrote:
They have my vote.
on June 19,2014 | 07:32PM
kainalu wrote:
Those billionaires that invested in Karl Rove's PAC - "American Crossroads" - must be extra peeved this morning. Walker was one of the very few candidates that their money backed that actually won. American Crossroad candidates got SMOKED this past election.
on June 19,2014 | 04:52PM
Ronin006 wrote:
I knew the SA would run the story about the ALLEGED criminal scheme involving Republican Governor Scott Walker, yet it can't seem to find space to run the story about Lois Lerner and six other high level IRS officials all having their computers crash, thus losing thousands of possibly incriminating emails requested by the congressional committee investigating alleged wrong doing at IRS.
on June 19,2014 | 07:31PM
DowntownGreen wrote:
Ahhh, but they DID run it... 5 days ago. http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/breaking/20140614_Lawmakers_fume_over_lost_emails_in_IRS_probe.html?id=263164901
on June 19,2014 | 08:32PM
Ronin006 wrote:
Ahhh, but that story was about Lois Lerner's computer and emails only. IRS has since reported that her hard drive also was destroyed, thus preventing any recovery of emails, and that the computers of six other high level IRS officials also crashed with the loss of thousands of emails which may be relevant to the congressional investigation. One official whose computer allegedly crashed is Chief of Staff to the head of IRS. Only Democrats believe this is simply a coincidence. Reasonable minded people say it is an attempted cover up.
on June 19,2014 | 08:55PM
DowntownGreen wrote:
Funny how you didn't mention the "destroyed" hard drive in your first post. No evidence of "destroyed" which implies willful damage. The SA story carried exactly what you said they DIDN'T. Sounds like typical spin and hypocrisy.
on June 20,2014 | 05:17AM
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