Investigation of Gov. Scott Walker Exposed
(CN) - After leading what became a national campaign against public employees' unions, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker oversaw a "criminal scheme" to coordinate fundraising that would help him and other Republicans fight off recalls, prosecutors said in court documents that the 7th Circuit ordered unsealed Thursday.
The revelations come as District Attorney John Chisholm and Assistant District Attorneys Bruce Landgraf and David Robles seek appellate relief in the 7th Circuit from decisions favoring Wisconsin Club for Growth and its director, Eric O'Keefe.
Two unnamed people had apparently moved to intervene and seal, but the 7th Circuit's Judge Frank Easterbrook denied the motions Thursday and directed the clerk to filed 266 pages of unredacted exhibits in the public record.
The exhibits contain allegations by prosecutors that Walker, his campaign, and political consultants R.J. Johnson and Deborah Jordahl collaborated on fighting off a recall that the governor faced after cracking down on public employees' unions. Their actions were not disclosed in campaign-finance reports, prosecutors added.
One newly disclosed exhibit describes a May 4, 2011, email to Karl Rove in which "Walker extolled R.J. Johnson's importance in leading the coordination effort."
"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 running 9 Congressional markets in every market in the state (and Twin Cities,)" Walker wrote, according to a 2013 filing by special prosecutor Francis Schmitz.
Johnson is an adviser to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which campaigned for the governor in the recall elections. Prosecutors say he used the organization as a "hub" to coordinate fundraising with Friends of Scott Walker and other conservative groups, including Citizens for a Strong America, Wisconsin Right to Life and United Sportsmen of Wisconsin.
Schmitz claims the evidence "shows an extensive coordination scheme that pervaded nearly every aspect of the campaign activities during the historic 2011 and 2012 Wisconsin Senate and gubernatorial recall elections."
The Wisconsin Club for Growth and O'Keefe had gone to court to try to stop the state's investigation. They accused the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office of engaging in a "continuous campaign of harassment and intimidation of conservative individuals and organizations."
"This campaign was politically motivated from the beginning, has involved at least six separate John Doe proceedings, and has most recently expanded into a consolidated five-county proceeding," their lawsuit states. "The current targets include virtually every conservative social welfare organization in Wisconsin and persons affiliated with them. The goals are to sideline these groups and individuals and prevent them from publishing political speech during the 2014 legislative session and campaign period, during which Scott Walker will run for re-election as Wisconsin's governor and to discredit conservative politicians and candidates in the State of Wisconsin by virtue of the unlawful investigation."
U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa in Milwaukee granted them an injunction on May 6, the first unsealed exhibit shows.
"The plaintiffs have been shut out of the political process merely by association with conservative politicians," he wrote. "This cannot square with the First Amendment and what it was meant to protect."
He said the defendants "instigated a secret John Doe investigation replete with armed raids on homes to collect evidence that would support their criminal prosecution."
Randa called O'Keefe a "veteran volunteer political activist," saying his "advocacy came to the forefront during the political unrest surrounding Governor Scott Walker's proposal and passage of 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, also known as the Budget Repair Bill."
"The bill limited the collective bargaining rights of most public sector unions to wages," Randa continued. "The bill also increased the amounts that state employees paid in pension and health insurance premiums. O'Keefe, the club, and its supporters immediately recognized the importance of the bill to the club's mission of promoting principles of economic freedom and limited government. The club viewed the bill as a model that, if successful, might be replicated across the country. Throughout this period, the club enlisted the advice of Richard 'R.J.' Johnson, a long-time adviser to WCFG. Johnson is a veteran of Wisconsin politics and is intimately familiar with the political lay of the land. WCFG generally trusted Johnson's professional judgment as to the best methods of achieving its advocacy goals."
O'Keefe et al. then led national fundraising efforts that prompted the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office to investigate, according to Randa's ruling.
He noted that the office apparently had already been investigating Walker for an alleged "embezzlement of $11,242.24 that Milwaukee County had collected for the local Order of the Purple Heart while Walker was serving as Milwaukee County Executive."
"From there, the first John Doe developed into a long-running investigation of all things Walker-related," Randa added.
Randa's injunction stopped prosecutors from continuing their "John Doe" investigation.
"The defendants must cease all activities related to the investigation, return all property seized in the investigation from any individual or organization, and permanently destroy all copies of information and other materials obtained through the investigation," Randa wrote. "Plaintiffs and others are hereby relieved of any and every duty under Wisconsin law to cooperate further with defendants' investigation. Any attempt to obtain compliance by any defendant or John Doe Judge Gregory Peterson is grounds for a contempt finding by this court."