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New Documents Show WisCONsin Gov Walker 'at the Center of an Effort to Illegally Coordinate Fundraising'

Documents made public concerning the second John Doe Investigation of Scott Walker show that prosecutors believe the Wisconsin Governor was “at the center of an effort to illegally coordinate fundraising among conservative groups to help his campaign and those of Republican state senators facing recall elections during 2011 and 2012.”  The documents lay out what prosecutors have labeled an “extensive criminal scheme” involving Walker, his campaign, and two political operatives (R.J. Johnson and Deborah Jordahl).  Together, the parties allegedly conspired to break Wisconsin election laws by raising money through 12 conservative groups.

The documents also expose part of an email conversation between Gov. Walker and former Bush administration advisor Karl Rove in which Walker praises Johnson’s abilities to skirt election laws:

“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)…”  

According to special prosecutor Francis Schmitz, as early as March of 2011 there were “open and express discussions” concerning the need to coordinate the activities of Americans for Prosperity, Wisconsin Club for Growth, the Republican Party of Wisconsin, the Republican State Leadership Committee and the Republican Governors Association (RGA).  The unsealed documents show that multiple conference calls were held between the Walker campaign, the RGA, and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.  

If true, the allegations of collusion would clearly violate federal election laws.  Under their IRS designation, groups such as those implicated are limited in the ways they can directly support candidates.  Prosecutors argue that Johnson and Jordahl acted as a “hub” to coordinate activities between the Walker campaign and conservative groups.  Money was distributed through the Wisconsin Club for Growth to other groups who then used the money to aide Walker and his fellow Republicans, according to the Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel:

…the organization gave nearly $3.5 million to Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, which in turn placed ads during the recall campaign supporting Walker and Republicans, and criticizing their foes.

The club gave $4.6 million to Citizens for a Strong America — a sum that represented 99.9% of its revenue. The group then passed on some of the money to other groups — $1.2 million to Wisconsin Family Action, nearly $350,000 to Wisconsin Right to Life, and $245,000 to United Sportsmen of Wisconsin. In addition, Schmitz alleged, Citizens for a Strong America was the creation of Jordahl and Johnson. Johnson’s wife, Valerie, was the treasurer and a signatory on the bank account, the brief alleges.

Johnson directly controlled Wisconsin Club for Growth, and Jordahl was a signatory on the club’s bank account, the brief states.

“We own CFG,” Johnson has stated, according to prosecutors.

Special prosecutor Schmitz labeled the criminal scheme “expansive”:  

“It includes criminal violations of multiple elections laws, including violations of Filing a False Campaign Report or Statement and Conspiracy to File a False Campaign Report or Statement.”

Following the disclosure of the unsealed documents the Center for Media and Democracy released a report showing that the Milwaukee based Bradley Foundation bankrolled many of the right wing organizations named in the second John Doe Investigation.   Analysis shows that the foundation and its directors gave $18 million to the groups and people connected to the groups.  According to PRWatch.org:

Bradley donated $1,230,400 between 2009 and 2014 to the news outlets and journalists that have aggressively attacked prosecutors and the criminal investigation, including the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity/Wisconsin Reporter and members of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, plus $250,000 to Washington Post columnist George Will.

It has given $3,006,220 between 1998 and 2012 to groups directed or founded by Wisconsin Club for Growth director Eric O’Keefe, who sued in federal court to halt the investigation.

Bradley has donated $205,000 between 2003 and 2010 towards the George Mason University “judicial junkets” attended by Judge Rudolph Randa, the federal judge who ordered the destruction of evidence gathered in the probe, including $115,000 during the years that Randa is known to have attended.

Bradley’s President and CEO was Walker’s campaign chair. Bradley Foundation board members have donated over $100,000 to Walker in his two gubernatorial races. Other Bradley board members have close ties to Club for Growth.

The files were unsealed by Federal Appeals judge Frank Easterbrook who is currently reviewing a legal attempt to stop the probe.  In a hail mary statement Thursday afternoon, Gov. Walker attempted to discredit the office of Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm:

“The accusation of any wrongdoing written in the complaint by the office of a partisan Democrat district attorney by me or by my campaign is categorically false.

This is nothing more than a partisan investigation with no basis in state law. It’s time for the prosecutors to acknowledge both judges’ orders to end this investigation. Now my Democratic opponents will use these false accusations to distract from the issues important to the voters of Wisconsin.”

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