Prosecutors allege Gov. Scott Walker led a nationwide “criminal scheme,” coordinating fundraising with conservative groups during the 2011 and 2012 recalls, according to newly released court documents.
The 266 pages of documents, part of the John Doe investigation, unsealed by a federal judge Thursday, alleged Walker and his staff of playing a central role in a violation of campaign finance rules.
They have not yet filed charges in the case. Two judges have dismissed the prosecutors’ allegations and a federal judge has put a stop to the probe in a ruling that is now in the appeals court.
The prosecutors pointed to an email exchange between Walker and top national GOP strategist Karl Rove, in which Walker discusses campaign consultant R.J. Johnson’s alleged spending coordination with other conservative groups. Johnson was working with campaigns while advising the Wisconsin Club for Growth, prosecutors said.
“Bottom-line: R.J. helps keep in place a team that is wildly successful in Wisconsin. We are running 9 recall elections and it will be like 9 congressional markets in every market in the state (and Twin Cities),” Walker wrote to Rove May 4, according to the documents.
But late on Thursday, Walker pushed back against the investigation and John Chisholm, the Milwaukee County district attorney leading the John Doe investigation.
In a statement, Walker called the claims from Chisholm, a Democrat, “categorically false,” noting the “two judges, in both state and federal courts, have ruled that no laws were broken.”
“This is nothing more than a partisan investigation with no basis in state law,” Walker said. “It’s time for the prosecutors to acknowledge both judges’ orders to end this investigation. Now my Democratic opponents will use these false accusations to distract me from the issues important to the voters of Wisconsin.”
Mike Browne, spokesperson for One Wisconsin Now, liberal-leaning group, said the documents show Walker was a central figure in a “criminal conspiracy” to coordinate his campaign with outside organizations and that he evaded Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws.
“Even Gov. Walker’s defenders aren’t disputing [that he broke the law],” Browne said. “He was engaged in raising money not only for his campaign but for other groups that were spending on television advertising and other activities concurrent with his recall election.”
In an earlier ruling, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa said that Walker and supporters did not violate state law. He said the groups were only involved in “issue advocacy,” which does not require the same disclosures as advertising that expressly advocates for a candidate rather than an issue. Randa wrote in that ruling that the investigation harms the groups’ right to free speech, but his ruling is under appeal.