Conservatives are declaring that the “witch hunt” against Governor Scott Walker is over because the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered the special prosecutor to stop the John Doe investigation into Walker’s alleged illegal coordinated with dark money groups during his recall elections in 2011 and 2012.
They claim that Scott Walker was cleared of illegally coordinating with dark money during his recall campaign. This isn’t exactly accurate, and it matters because the court’s ruling impacts the rights and voices of Wisconsin citizens.
This probe not “political”, as a bipartisan group district attorneys were behind it and the County District Attorney John Chisholm has gone after both parties. In fact, Chisholm — who is being inaccurately eviscerated for having a political agenda — has gone after mostly fellow Democrats. This doesn’t stop conservative outlets and politicians from pretending this is all Chisholm. Personal attacks and smears are the best recourse of the guilty – smear the source, smear the facts. It works, so they do it.
But the facts tell a different story.
The Wisconsin State Journal/Host Madison reported that the court, which helpfully for Scott Walker’s presidential run ordered that all “potential evidence — including thousands of pages of emails and other documents — be returned and all copies be destroyed”, ruled that outlawing coordination was “unconstitutionally overbroad and vague under the First Amendment.”
The secret John Doe investigation targeted suspected illegal coordination — the special prosecutor referred to “a criminal scheme” — between Republicans and purportedly independent conservative groups that supported Walker as he beat back the effort to oust him from office. Documents obtained by investigators indicated Walker’s involvement in directing donors to the independent advocacy groups.
In its opinion released early Thursday, the majority said a state law outlawing such coordination was “unconstitutionally overbroad and vague under the First Amendment.”
Campaign finance advocates predicted the ruling would relegate most Wisconsin citizens to the sidelines in future elections with anonymous, deep-pocketed donors taking over. The critics also began discussing an appeal to federal courts.
This does not mean that Scott Walker did not violate the law. It means the court thinks the law sucks. They decided to ignore the criminal elements of the charges and focus on the state’s campaign laws instead. So they found fault with the law that would make what the evidence suggests was illegal coordination to be no good. Change the interpretation of the law and suddenly Scott Walker is not guilty.
To reiterate, the John Doe investigation was looking into suspected illegal coordination and they had documents indicating Walker’s involvement. That’s criminal. Or it was, until the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided they didn’t like that law.
An important fact in this case that can’t be overlooked is that the prosecutor asked two justices to recuse themselves since they have benefited from dark money from the same groups, but they refused.
The WSJ noted, “… the four state Supreme Court justices considered to be conservatives benefited in their own elections from millions of dollars spent in their behalf by so-called independent groups.”
Dissenting opinion provided by Justice Shirley Abrahamson criticized the majority opinion for having a “faulty interpretation” of the state’s campaign finance law and the majority ignored the criminal element of the accusations, “I conclude that the Special Prosecutor has a valid legal theory to support his investigation.”
Thanks to this ruling, dark money from outside of the state will be allowed to buy elections. Or, as the Republicans call it, “freedom”.