Story broke at around 6:30 PM Central Time and I saw it just as I was closing things down for dinner.
Bad news for the GOP, RWNJs, well-heeled astroturf groups, and Scott Walker:
The state Court of Appeals blocked an attempt Thursday to halt a secret investigation into recent recall elections and unsealed some files in the case.A few lawsuits were filed trying to block the recently revealed John Doe II (citing "free speech" concerns) and the RW shills on AM radio have been pounding away at the investigation which leads me to believe that there is a whole lot of "there" there. There was little to no reaction to the first John Doe except to repeat Walkers claims to be "helping" the probe and his repeated meme that he was the son of a preacher and former Eagle Scout. This time the reaction has been swift and loud.
The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the Madison-based 4th District Court of Appeals is a win for prosecutors and comes just three weeks after they faced a separate setback by the judge overseeing the investigation. That earlier ruling quashed subpoenas issued to conservative groups supporting Gov. Scott Walker; how the case will move forward is not clear.
The appeals court Thursday unsealed some of the previously secret documents in the case at the request of the three unnamed parties who sued to block the probe. In one, an attorney for one of the three petitioners confirmed the probe's wide reach and gave an account of how it arose.
Sources have said the investigation, first disclosed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, is looking at whether conservative groups such as the Wisconsin Club for Growth coordinated illegally with GOP candidates during the 2011 and 2012 recall races. In the most prominent contest, Walker beat back an attempt by Democrats to remove him in June 2012.
"Petitioners have had their homes searched, possessions seized, their privileged documents demanded, and presently face a wide-ranging criminal investigation that is without a basis in law," Strang wrote in one newly unsealed filing.
Targets of the investigation have hurried to hire some of the best known and highest priced heavyweight lawyers from around the country.
In the first John Doe, surrounding activities in Scott Walkers Milwaukee County Executive office, 6 people were convicted, including 3 of Walkers top aides, one of his appointees, and a campaign donor. It was revealed that Walkers staff was trying to skirt Open Records Laws by relying on a secret and hidden router and using laptops and personal email accounts to perform fundraising, blogging, and campaign work while on duty in taxpayer funded offices and receiving taxpayer funded paychecks.
While John Doe investigations are done secretly, information on this one came to light when one of the targets of the investigation revealed it existed and the RW reaction has been extreme.
Stay tuned. This is just getting started.
UPDATE: The original article has been updated to include a little more meat on the bones.
New details released Thursday show the investigation began in the fall of 2012; arose at least in part out of an earlier secret investigation in Milwaukee County; includes five targets; centers on campaign finance laws; and has proceeded with the help of prosecutors from both political parties.And this leads me to wonder if this new probe was the reason that the original John Doe was quickly and unceremoniously closed following the last conviction. During the prosecutions closing an entire litany of wrongdoing was essentially read into the record leading most of us to assume that new charges were about to be brought involving the secret wifi router and private email accounts used. It didn't. Instead, the original John Doe closed.
According to a newly unsealed court filing from the special prosecutor, the case hinges on campaign finance law and is targeting "five individual subjects." Prosecutors sought the John Doe probe in August 2012 in Milwaukee County, but "it soon became apparent that subjects of the investigation resided throughout the state," Schmitz wrote.Sources have said that this John Doe is focusing on illegal coordination between campaigns and well-funded conservative astroturf organizations such as Wisconsin Club for Growth.
After Van Hollen declined to investigate the matter, the Government Accountability Board met with the district attorneys in five counties and consulted with the presiding judges in those counties, according to Schmitz. Each district attorney decided to start an investigation in his or her county and asked that they be treated as a single investigation headed by a special prosecutor.
The investigation is structured as it is in part because of a 2007 law requiring that campaign finance violations be prosecuted in the county where a suspect lives, not where the alleged crime occurs. All of the suspected misconduct "arguably occurred in Dane County," the seat of state government, according to Schmitz.
Republican political strategist R.J. Johnson has hinted very strongly that he is a focus of the investigation. Johnson is a consultant both for Walker's campaign and Wisconsin Club for Growth, a strong supporter of the GOP governor.Stay tuned.