MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and outside groups accused of illegally coordinating campaign activities were let off the hook today by four justices of the Wisconsin State Supreme Court. The four justices whose opinion halts an investigation and possible prosecution of Walker’s campaign and allies and orders records to be destroyed were the beneficiaries of at least $10 million in campaign spending by parties named in the investigation.
One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross blasted the decision saying, “It’s clear that one party rule in the legislative, executive and judicial branches in Wisconsin means Scott Walker and his cronies are free to run amok, ignoring the rules whenever it gives them a partisan advantage and looting the state for their campaign benefactors.”
According to prosecutors, Walker was at the center of what they described as a national “criminal scheme” to evade campaign laws – raising money for his own campaigns in 2010 and 2012 while also shaking down donors for unlimited, secret contributions to outside groups that acted in coordination with his campaign. Reports have found instances of donors to these outside groups benefitting from law changes supported by Walker and taxpayer-funded grants from the Walker administration.
The John Doe investigation halted today by the conservative justices grew out of an earlier criminal investigation of Scott Walker and close aides in associates. As a result of the “John Doe I” investigation, six people connected to Walker, including high ranking members of his staff, were convicted of crimes ranging from embezzling from a fund to benefit the children and widows of armed service members killed in the line of duty, illegal campaigning and money laundering. Walker spent $650,000 on legal fees, including nearly $450,000 for criminal defense lawyers through a legal defense fund. Walker refused to disclose the identities of the donors to the fund.
In April of 2014, One Wisconsin Now called on the four justices issuing the majority decision today to recuse themselves because of the significant campaign spending on their behalf from outside groups also named in documents from the probe. Despite these significant conflicts, justices are under no obligation to recuse themselves in cases like this after a rule proposed by the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce was adopted by the court to allow justices to make decisions involving groups that spent on their behalf in elections.
Ross concluded, “If this exact scenario were occurring in another country, Scott Walker would be calling for boots on the ground to save democracy.”