Federal Prosecutors Accuse Wisconsin Governor of Running a 'Criminal Scheme'
By Mary Spicuzza
Prosecutors accuse Gov. Scott Walker of overseeing a sweeping "criminal scheme" to illegally coordinate fundraising and campaign activity among conservative groups in a broad effort to help him -- as well as Republican senators -- fend off recalls targeting them in 2011 and 2012, court documents unsealed Thursday show.
In the documents, which were unsealed by a federal appeals court judge Thursday morning, prosecutors described what they called a "criminal scheme" to circumvent state campaign finance and election laws. They said it involved conservative groups, Walker, his campaign and top allies of the governor, including R.J. Johnson and Deborah Jordahl.
The prosecutors allege that Walker and those allies raised money and coordinated spending with about a dozen conservative groups during the recall elections.
The prosecutors cite a May 2011 email in which Walker tells prominent national conservative Karl Rove that Johnson would lead coordinated efforts to beat the recall efforts.
"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 on May 4, 2011.
Johnson is also chief adviser to Wisconsin Club for Growth, a conservative group active in the recall elections. In the documents, prosecutors said Johnson has said, "We own CFG."
A federal appeals court has released full copies of more than 250 pages of previously edited documents filed in the legal battle over an investigation into whether a number of conservative groups illegally coordinated with Gov. Scott Walker's recall campaign.
Seventh U.S. Circuit Court Judge Frank H. Easterbrook on Thursday morning denied a motion from two unnamed people to block the release of the documents, and ordered the unredacted copies -- totaling 266 pages -- be placed in the public court docket. The two unknown people had tried to intervene, arguing that making the documents public could reveal their identities and invade their privacy, essentially infringing on their free speech rights.
The documents include portions of orders, briefs and entire exhibits that were previously shielded from public view.
Among them is a state's response to attempts to quash subpoenas, which were filed by Friends of Scott Walker as well as conservative groups including Wisconsin Club for Growth, Citizens for a Strong America, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. In it, prosecutors detail an alleged scheme to do fundraising nationally and funnel cash to other conservative groups.
"The investigation focuses on a wide-ranging scheme to coordinate activities of several organizations with various candidate committees to thwart attempts to recall Wisconsinte Senate and Gubernatorial candidates," the response reads. "That coordination included a nationwide effort to raise undisclosed funds for an organization which then funded the activities of other organizations supporting or opposing candidates subject to recall."
It adds, "The purpose of this investigation is to ensure the integrity of the electoral process in Wisconsin."
However, prosecutors and attorneys for the Wisconsin Club for Growth had not objected to the release of the documents. But Club for Growth has attempted to block some court exhibits from being released.
The investigation began in 2012 in the wake of the efforts to recall Walker and other Republican officials. It focused on alleged illegal coordination and campaign activity between conservative groups like the Wisconsin Club for Growth, Walker's campaign and others.
Judge Rudolph Randa, a federal judge, has temporarily put the John Doe investigation on hold. But his ruling is under appeal.
On Thursday, Easterbrook denied the motion to intervene from the two unnamed people and ordered the release.
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