Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign transferred thousands of dollars to a legal defense fund to pay attorneys representing him in a John Doe probe, according to campaign finance reports filed Thursday.

The Friends of Scott Walker transferred $40,000 to a legal defense fund Dec. 31, according to a campaign finance report filed with the state Government Accountability Board last Thursday.

“The transfer covers work done to cooperate with authorities over the past year,” Nicole Tieman, Walker campaign spokesperson, said in an emailed statement to The Badger Herald.

According to a form filed with the Internal Revenue Service, the Scott Walker Trust Fund received $200,000 in contributions from the campaign by the end of last year.

The fund split the $40,000 transfer into payments to two law firms. $15,000 went to Chicago lawyer Sidley Austin and $25,000 went to attorney Michael J. Steinle of the Milwaukee-based Terschan and Steinle Ltd, according to the IRS filing.

Last February, Walker hired Steinle and John Gallo, a Sidley Austin attorney, to help gather background information and aid a now more than 30-month long John Doe investigation of his time as Milwaukee County Executive.

Walker formed the legal defense fund in March to pay what he said were expenses incurred while cooperating with the investigation focused on whether his staffers were campaigning while working in county offices.

Jay Heck, Common Cause in Wisconsin’s executive director, said with the recent sentencing of Tim Russell, a former aide for Walker, and Kelly Rindflesich, Walker’s deputy chief of staff, the John Doe investigation appears to be ongoing.

“That’s not surprising at all,” Heck said. “These transfers to his legal defense fund show, and especially with that large amount, this investigation isn’t over.”

Mike Browne, One Wisconsin Now’s deputy director, agreed and said the filing of the payment Dec. 31, the final day of the reporting period, was not a surprise. 

According to Browne, it is also clear Walker is not proud of having a defense fund.

“Governor Walker remains the only governor in the country to have the distinct honor of having a legal defense fund,” Browne said.

During the last half of 2012, Walker raised $473,719 and had $793,681 cash on hand, according to papers filed with the GAB.

Tieman said in a statement Thursday 78 percent of the total funds were raised in donations of $50 or less.

“We have seen an outpouring of grassroots support for the governor and his reforms, which have eliminated a $3.6 billion budget deficit without raising taxes and created a healthy surplus for Wisconsin’s rainy day fund,” Tieman said in the statement.

Heck said the amount raised over the period is small compared to the approximate $37 million Walker raised while facing a recall election and Walker’s capacity to raise large amounts of money at a national level.

Still, Heck said he expects Walker’s fundraising to pick up dramatically over the next year as a way to intimidate other potential challengers in the 2014 election.

“This is more a lull in action before the fundraising storm hits again,” Heck said. “I have no doubt that Walker will raise millions and millions in 2013.”