Prosecutors have accused Wisconsin governor and potential Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker of orchestrating a "criminal scheme" to illegally coordinate campaign fundraising.
Documents unsealed by a federal judge Thursday show state prosecutors claim Walker was deeply involved in illegally directing campaign contributions between at least 12 conservative groups during recall elections in 2011-2012 targeting himself and state senators. (Via C-SPAN)
As evidence, Walker's accusers point to an email the governor sent in 2011, suggesting the leader of one conservative group lead a coordination effort which "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." (Via U.S. District Courts)
The allegations are part of a larger investigation into Walker's campaign finances, which began shortly after the governor was reelected in 2012.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes the probe was conducted under an unusual "John Doe" state law which allows prosecutors to conduct their investigation in secret. "Critics argue that process creates a risk of prosecutors overreaching because it gives them so much power. ... Others contend the secrecy helps protect the innocent."
But the investigation has currently hit a standstill thanks to a lawsuit from the conservative group Wisconsin Club for Growth claiming the "John Doe" probe violates their First Amendment rights. A lawyer representing the Club for Growth told the Wisconsin State Journal prosecutors had "adopted a blatantly unconstitutional interpretation of Wisconsin law" to secretly target conservatives.
The new revelations come at an inconvenient time for Walker, who is facing reelection this year and is reportedly contemplating a run for The White House. A writer for Time notes the phrase "criminal scheme" might put a dent in Walker's political ambitions, regardless of what the investigation turns up.
"Even if he skates criminal charges, he will now face the enormous task of explaining the byzantine technicalities of campaign finance law to the American public, which is predisposed, polls suggest, to believe that most candidates at all levels are bought and paid for by donors."
Last month, a federal judge granted an injunction against the "John Doe" prosecutors. That injunction is currently under appeal.