Politics News

Governor Scott Walker Avoids Scandal, Wisconsin Supreme Court Ends ‘John Doe’ Probe


In a divisive 4-2 victory Thursday for Governor Scott Walker, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that his presidential campaign and conservative groups had not violated any campaign finance laws, ending an 18 month-long probe; news which comes on the heels of Walker’s presidential bid.

The ruling could set a new precedent for the level of collaboration between campaigns and outside groups, allowing money to flow from any direction without donor disclosure, reports the Journal Sentinel. There is already debate in the state legislature over campaign finance and ethics, and Republicans hope this will build momentum to change the controversial John Doe probes.

In Wisconsin, election laws prohibit officials from coordinating campaign activities with outside political groups. Sparking this investigation was probable cause that Walker’s campaign was directly overseeing how outside political groups spent their campaign resources – including those who allegedly were non-partisan non-profits, according to an MSNBC report.

Justice Michael Gableman, writing for the majority, said that collaboration between the two groups wasn’t illegal and that the prosecutors “employed theories of law that do not exist in order to investigate citizens who were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing.”  He ordered the prosecutors to return all documents seized and to destroy any and all of copies.

It is utterly clear that the special prosecutor has employed theories of law that do not exist in order to investigate citizens who were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing

Writing in dissent, Justice Shirley Abrahamson, said this would create an “unprecedented and faulty” interpretation of the law. That by ruling in favor of unregulated political money, the theme should be “Anything Goes” when it comes to the rules regulating new campaign finance.

The majority opinion adopts an unprecedented and faulty interpretation of Wisconsin’s campaign finance law and of the First Amendment

Scott Walker, while campaigning in New Hampshire, told reporters that he has remained “even keeled” throughout the investigation and litigation.

The special prosecutor leading the case, Francis Schmitz, apparently asked two of the justices to step aside, Gableman and Justice David Prosser, back in February. Both justices issued statements indicating that they would not do so, however, they offered no explanations for their decisions.

Francis Schmitz has said that the court’s decision “defies common sense” and as the Wisconsin Supreme Court has made its decision, there are still options for Francis Schmitz. He is currently reviewing whether an appeal to the nation’s highest court would be appropriate given Gableman’s and Prosser’s decision to not recuse themselves from the case, or their interpretation of the First Amendment.

The decision represents a loss for all of the citizens of Wisconsin — independents, Democrats and Republicans alike. It defies common sense that a Wisconsin resident of average means who gives $25 to a campaign has his or her name publicly reported under the law but, according to this decision, someone who gives, for example, $100,000 to a group which closely coordinates with the same campaign can remain anonymous

While this is certainly a victory for Scott Walker, this isn’t over for the court involved. Nor is it over for the country, where many are concerned about politicians accepting money from the shadows.

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