New reports from the Center for Media and Democracy/PRwatch.org:
April 19, 2015 -- Two court cases this week--one being heard in open court, another being considered in silence behind closed doors--will decide the future of Wisconsin campaign finance law, the independence of the Wisconsin judiciary and will impact the future of presidential candidate Scott Walker. The stakes could not be higher, but the converging cases have garnered little national attention.
March 31, 2015 -- Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), Wisconsin's premier lobby for corporate tax breaks and low wage jobs, has unleashed a $600,000 ad blitz to strip Wisconsin's independent Chief Justice of her title just as the court prepares to take up the "John Doe" criminal probe of Scott Walker and the special interest groups that defended him against recall in 2012.
February 13, 2015 -- The prosecutor leading the probe into possible coordination between Governor Scott Walker's campaign and outside groups has asked some Wisconsin Supreme Court justices to recuse themselves from hearing a challenge to the investigation.
February 9, 2015 -- Budget bills are for bean counters. They are not supposed to be for major policy initiatives such as destroying public sector unions or upending the University of Wisconsin’s 111 year old mission to pursue truth and improve the human condition.
February 5, 2015 -- After a January 30, 2015 ruling from Milwaukee-based federal Judge Charles Clevert, some declared that the "John Doe" probe into alleged campaign finance violations by Governor Scott Walker's campaign was dead.
January 27, 2015 -- In 2014, as March drew to an end but the cold Wisconsin winter refused to let go, State Senate President Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) stopped at his favorite after-work hangout to relax after a long session in the Capitol. After a few drinks, Ellis was approached by what he thought were two young constituents and the veteran GOP lawmaker started holding forth, as he was wont to do.
January 21, 2015 -- After a scorching two-year controversy involving a "John Doe" criminal investigation into potential illegal coordination between Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's campaign and outside big money groups, state GOP leaders are readying a legislative package to dismantle the nonpartisan elections board.
January 13, 2015 -- A bipartisan effort to enforce Wisconsin’s longstanding laws governing coordination between campaigns and independent groups has been mislabeled a “partisan witch hunt” by a well-funded legal and media campaign, with the ultimate goal of undermining what remains of limits on big money in politics, according to a new report from the Center for Media and Democracy, The Assault on Clean Election Laws The Well-Funded Campaign to Legalize Coordination in Wisconsin and Nationwide.
January 09, 2015 -- Assembly Joint Resolution 1 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would change the way the Chief Justice in the Wisconsin Supreme Court is appointed. Under Wisconsin's Constitution the title is given to the longest serving member, but under the GOP's proposed new system it would be decided by a vote among the justices every two years.
January 06, 2015 -- For almost 40 years, Wisconsin's judges have been working without a mandatory retirement age. But all of a sudden, some state GOP leaders have decided that this is a major problem.
December 18, 2014 -- The Wisconsin Supreme Court has agreed to review the long-running investigation into possible criminal campaign finance violations by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's campaign and "dark money" electoral nonprofit groups, setting the stage for significant questions about conflicts-of-interest on the court and the future of clean elections in Wisconsin.
November 3, 2014 -- A hole in Wisconsin's campaign finance laws opened by federal judge Rudolph Randa in September is being exploited by out-of-state billionaires like Sheldon Adelson, blowing open the floodgates to huge checks for the state's gubernatorial candidates in the final weeks and days of this hotly-contested race.
October 31, 2014 (Press Release) -- The Center for Media and Democracy has asked Wisconsin's U.S. Attorneys to investigate Wisconsin Club for Growth for allegedly making false statements on its tax filings and conspiring to defraud the United States, based on evidence made public as a result of the Walker criminal probe.
October 27, 2014 (Press Release) -- CMD filed a complaint alleging the group at the center of the Walker probe lied to the IRS about its political activity and violated its tax-exempt status, based on extensive new evidence.
October 23, 2014 -- The Wall Street Journal editorial board's crusade against the enforcement of Wisconsin's campaign finance laws has gone off the rails. Apparently, the Journal thinks U.S. Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and Chief Justice John Roberts are "liberals."
October 22, 2014 -- Republican Attorney General candidate Brad Schimel is calling for changes to Wisconsin law to give politicians more protections than average citizens.
October 14, 2014 -- Wisconsin candidates can now coordinate with "dark money" nonprofits that accept secret, unlimited donations and run sham "issue ads," under a ruling from the same federal judge who blocked the criminal coordination investigation into Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker earlier this year.
October 11, 2014 -- Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen's refusal to defend the Government Accountability Board in a federal lawsuit challenging the investigation into Governor Scott Walker and his allies is a reversal of his office's earlier position, could have grave implications for openness in the state, and undermines the GAB's role in enforcing the state's campaign finance laws.
October 6, 2014 -- The Wisconsin Supreme Court could decide the future of the criminal investigation into Governor Scott Walker and independent electoral groups, but some of the justices are faced with a significant conflict of interest: two of the groups facing criminal liability spent at least $10 million electing the court's GOP majority.
September 25, 2014 -- A federal appellate court has shut down Judge Rudolph Randa's decision halting the criminal probe into Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and allied groups, rejecting Randa's interpretation of campaign finance law and declaring the investigation best resolved by state courts.
September 16, 2014 -- On September 9, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Legal Newsline cited an unnamed source to claim that the criminal probe into Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was a personal vendetta that can be traced back to the wife of Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm.
September 15, 2014 -- A nasty smear from the US Chamber on the wife of a prosecutor in the Walker "John Doe" criminal probe has fallen apart. The Chamber's Wisconsin affiliate, WMC, is under investigation in the John Doe.
September 10, 2014 -- Federal Judge Rudolph Randa may have overreached when he halted the state criminal investigation into Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and allied groups, a 7th Circuit panel has indicated.
September 3, 2014 -- Leaked audio from an invite-only Koch donor summit highlighted the role of the billionaire brothers in boosting Scott Walker in Wisconsin -- and suggests that David Koch's Americans for Prosperity Foundation may have violated its charitable status during the state's 2012 recall elections.
September 1, 2014 -- Newly-released documents demonstrate that prosecutors are indeed looking at potentially criminal activity by Walker and show that he made personal appeals to out-of-state billionaires and millionaires to raise funds for WiCFG. Evidence indicates that his campaign also worked with WiCFG on how those funds were spent.
August 25, 2014 -- New documents reveal for the first time the key details of the ongoing “John Doe” criminal investigation into possible illegal coordination between the Walker campaign and outside “issue ad” groups during the 2012 recalls.
August 13, 2014 -- A slew of election law experts and Wisconsin's elections board have filed briefs with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals sharply critiquing federal Judge Rudolph Randa’s decision halting Wisconsin's criminal campaign finance probe, describing the ruling as “erroneous,” and as “completely unmoored" from U.S. Supreme Court precedent.
July 23, 2014 -- In filing a complaint against the Burke campaign, the Wisconsin Republican Party endorsed the legal basis for the John Doe criminal investigation.
Published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 17, 2014: Even if the Walker camp believed that coordinated issue ads shouldn't be regulated, or that at some point in the future a court might overrule existing Wisconsin precedent, this belief shouldn't have given them license to ignore well-established law during the 2012 elections.
July 15, 2014 -- New documents indicate that just weeks after the first subpoenas were issued in Wisconsin's "John Doe" criminal campaign finance probe in October 2013, senate Republicans had begun working to change state law to legalize the activities under investigation.
June 23, 2014 --Scott Walker says the John Doe is "a partisan investigation with no basis in state law." Not quite. And, he says the investigation is "over." He's wrong.
June 19, 2014 -- The campaign against Wisconsin’s John Doe criminal probe is being led by groups bankrolled by the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, which has $600 million in assets and is led by Scott Walker's campaign chair. The Bradley Foundation and its directors have given nearly $18 million to groups that are now connected to individuals involved in the John Doe investigation and the campaign against it.
June 12, 2014 -- The John Doe "raids" that have been described as proof of the investigation's partisan motivations may have happened on the watch of Republican law enforcement officials. Those "raids" have come close to a top Walker advisor and a Franklin Center/Wisconsin Reporter leader.
June 2, 2014 -- Wisconsin Club for Growth has launched a new legal volley in its well-funded effort to thwart the state’s John Doe campaign finance probe. On Friday, WCFG and its director Eric O’Keefe filed suit against the Government Accountability Board (GAB) in the Republican stronghold of Waukesha County, claiming the board exceeded its authority by assisting prosecutors in the probe.
One of many problems with that claim: the Republican Attorney General disagrees.
May 28, 2014 -- Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's campaign is reportedly negotiating a settlement with prosecutors in the long-running "John Doe" criminal campaign finance probe -- and the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which for months has attacked prosecutors and portrayed the investigation as baseless, is livid. Despite repeated efforts by the Journal editorial board and other right-wing outlets to recast the probe as a legally-baseless effort to "criminalize political speech in Wisconsin," the reported settlement negotiations appear to provide further evidence that the John Doe investigation is on solid legal ground.
May 27, 2014 -- The federal judge who ordered a halt to Wisconsin's "John Doe" criminal investigation into spending during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections has regularly attended all-expenses paid "judicial junkets" funded by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and other ideological and corporate interests.
May 19, 2014 -- The public may be on the cusp of learning more about the two "John Doe" investigations into Scott Walker, his associates, and groups that spent millions to get him elected -- pitting the public's First Amendment right to know against the purported "right" of deep-pocketed donors to secretly influence elections and coordinate with candidates.
May 19, 2014 -- After months of railing against the secrecy necessitated by Wisconsin's dark money criminal investigation, Wisconsin Club for Growth is now fighting to keep hundreds of documents in the probe secret -- evidence which would allow the public to decide for themselves whether the probe is justified, or a "partisan witch hunt" as WCFG claims.
May 13, 2014 -- In the wake of a federal court's recent ruling halting a state criminal investigation into spending during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and other candidates, misinformation about the investigation and court rulings has run rampant. Here are six things you might not know from reading Judge Randa's decision and some of the surrounding media coverage.
May 8, 2014 -- In one of the first cases to rely on the U.S. Supreme Court's McCutcheon decision, a federal judge just tried to open the door to new levels of corruption in Wisconsin elections -- but the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals could still stop him. On May 6, federal Judge Rudolph Randa ordered a halt to Wisconsin's long-running "John Doe" criminal probe into allegedly illegal coordination between political campaigns (including Governor Scott Walker's 2012 recall campaign) and non-profit groups like Wisconsin Club for Growth that spent millions during the state's recall elections.
April 22, 2014 -- New court filings in a federal challenge to Wisconsin's John Doe campaign finance probe into Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker undermine claims from Wisconsin Club for Growth and the Wall Street Journal that the investigation is a "partisan witch-hunt" and a case of biased selective prosecution on the part of Milwaukee's Democratic District Attorney.
April 14, 2014 -- Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s campaign has asked the state Supreme Court to review the legal basis for the John Doe campaign finance probe looking at coordination between his campaign and third-party groups. And, a separate federal challenge to the investigation filed by Wisconsin Club for Growth will move forward, after the judge hearing the case denied a motion to dismiss it.
April 1, 2014 -- The Wall Street Journal opinion page has a new installment in its campaign against Wisconsin's "John Doe" campaign finance probe, this time in an effort to resuscitate the image of Kelly Rindfleisch, a top aide to Scott Walker implicated in two John Doe investigations. The error-ridden piece portrays Rindfleisch as an innocent victim "who became collateral damage in the prosecutorial pursuit of Scott Walker," but the facts suggest otherwise.
March 24, 2014 -- Wisconsin Club for Growth's allegations that prosecutors in the John Doe campaign finance probe have engaged in politically-motivated selective targeting don't stand up to even limited scrutiny. On February 10, Wisconsin Club for Growth (WCFG) and its director Eric O'Keefe filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the John Doe probe as a violation of the First and Fourteenth amendments.
March 17, 2014 -- New court filings confirm that Wisconsin's John Doe campaign finance investigation hinges on how state election law treats "issue ad" groups coordinating with political campaigns, shedding new light on a Republican effort to quietly change the law in advance of Governor Scott Walker's reelection campaign.
February 24, 2014 -- Throughout the years-long "John Doe" investigation into Scott Walker's staff during his time as Milwaukee County Executive, Wisconsin's current governor feigned ignorance: he insisted that he had no knowledge of the campaign activities taking place within his office, implied that he did not know his employees were using a secret email system and private email accounts, and told the press he had no idea that prosecutors had raided the home of a top aide.
February 20, 2014 -- Kelly Rindfleisch's emails were released as part of the final court proceedings regarding the first John Doe, the closed-door, criminal investigation of Scott Walker's staff during his time as Milwaukee County Executive and running for governor in 2010.
February 19, 2014 -- An order from the Wisconsin Supreme Court halting the John Doe campaign finance investigation would directly affect the same organizations that helped put four of the justices on the bench, calling into question whether any of those justices can be impartial.
February 11, 2014 (Press Release) -- "Eric O'Keefe and WCFG have misled a federal court with false claims about CMD in their effort to thwart a criminal investigation into their activities during the 2011-2012 recall elections in Wisconsin"
February 7, 2014 -- Newly-unsealed court documents and media leaks add to a growing body of evidence that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s campaign is at the center of a wide-ranging secret probe into campaign finance violations during the state's contentious 2011 and 2012 recall elections.
January 28, 2014 -- A secret court ruling in the "John Doe" probe into campaign finance violations during Wisconsin's 2011 and 2012 recall elections could have implications well beyond the investigation -- if news reports from anonymous sources are accurate.
December 19, 2013 -- The Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity (through its Wisconsin Reporter and Watchdog.org websites) has aggressively attacked the "John Doe" probe into possible campaign finance violations during Wisconsin's 2011 and 2012 recall elections. Its outlets have also published new information about the apparent targets of the investigation, but they have omitted an important detail: Franklin Center has close ties to individuals and groups that may be caught up in the John Doe.
November 18, 2013 -- Governor Scott Walker's campaign and dozens of Republican-aligned political groups have been subpoenaed in a wide-ranging probe into potential campaign finance violations during Wisconsin's contentious 2011 and 2012 recall elections, and a group at the center of the storm appears to be Wisconsin Club for Growth, one of the top spenders during the recalls and whose leaders have close ties to Governor Walker and national donors, including the Koch brothers.