June 19th, 2014
05:12 PM ET
8 years ago

Prosecutors allege Wisconsin governor at center of 'criminal scheme'

updated Friday 8:20 am ET

(CNN) - Prosecutors claim that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was at the center of an illegal effort to coordinate fundraising between his campaign and outside conservative groups as he battled for his political life in a 2012 recall election.

The possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate is pushing back against the allegations.

In documents released Thursday, local prosecutors in Wisconsin alleged wrongdoing by Walker, a Republican, and two top aides. They said the three took part in a "criminal scheme" to bypass state election laws that prohibit such coordination to help his campaign and those GOP state lawmakers also facing recalls.

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The documents also include three-year-old email between Walker and Karl Rove, the mastermind behind George W. Bush's two presidential election victories who later went on to co-found and steer American Crossroads, a leading pro-Republican super PAC.

Asked Thursday about the new developments, Walker pointed to comments from state and federal judges.

"I hope people that look at the facts. And the facts are that you have a state judge that wasn't appointed by me, wasn't aligned with me at all, make the case earlier this year that didn't think there was a foundation for this. You had a federal judge that made a similar finding,” he said.

“And so I think it's pretty clear you have judges who are separate branches of government, at the state level certainly, but also at the federal level, who made it clear that they don't believe the case has been made," Walker told reporters.

Walker added that "I haven't seen any of the documents released today."

A federal judge ordered the documents unsealed following a lawsuit by a conservative group under investigation by prosecutors. The Wisconsin chapter of Club for Growth, an anti-establishment organization, claims it was unfairly targeted by prosecutors who it said were partisan and infringed on its First Amendment rights.

The release of the documents that are part of an ongoing investigation also comes less than five months before the midterm elections, when Walker faces voters as he bids for another four years in office. If Walker wins in November, he's considered a possible contender for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

According to the papers, "the investigation focuses on a wide-ranging scheme to coordinate activities of several organizations with various candidate committees to thwart attempts to recall Wisconsin Senate and gubernatorial candidates.

“That coordination included a nationwide effort to raise funds for an organization which then funded the activities of other organizations supporting or opposing candidates subject to recall," the documents said.

They continued, that "the purpose of this investigation is to ensure the integrity of the electoral process in Wisconsin."

Also revealed Thursday was an email sent by Walker to Rove on May 4, 2011, in which the governor talked about the role of one of his top aides, R.J. Johnson, in leading the coordination effort.

"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 running 9 congressional markets in every market in the state (and Twin Cities.)," Walker wrote.

National Democrats were quick to attack.

"The documents released today raise more questions than answers about Scott Walker’s misconduct during his first term. Walker’s coordination with Karl Rove and a Koch-backed group, among others, is not only troubling and potentially illegal – it is a clear violation of the public’s trust," said Democratic National Committee spokesman Michael Czin.

He added that "now that prosecutors have alleged criminal conduct by Walker, it’s time for him to come clean to the people of Wisconsin and face the consequences, whatever they may be."

Friday morning on the Fox News Channel, Walker said the "the facts in the case are pretty clear," adding that "this is a case that's been resolved."

The case is on hold right now, pending the legal challenge.

Asked on the Fox News Channel interview if the left is trying to trash him, Walker answered that "the media jumps on this, some on the left spin this. You get our detractors out there trying to claim there is something more than there is."

Separate controversy

The new developments follow the release of documents in February that indicated Walker ordered his official staff to hold a daily conference call with his political campaign in 2010 when he was Milwaukee county executive and running for governor.

That coordination would be considered illegal under Wisconsin law, as county officials are not allowed to conduct political business on the county's dime.

That revelation came from thousands of documents in a now-closed case in which six of Walker's former aides were convicted.

Walker was never accused of any wrongdoing nor was he investigated.

Governor in national spotlight

Walker, who was elected governor with the support of the tea party movement, set off a firestorm in January 2011 when he moved to curtail the collective bargaining rights of most Wisconsin state employees.

With majorities in both houses of the legislature, Walker and his GOP allies voted to limit raises for public employees (except police and firefighters) to the rate of inflation, bar unions from deducting dues from workers' paychecks and force them to hold a new certification vote every year.

That bill was signed into law in March of that year, following weeks of protests at the state Capitol building in Madison that captured national attention.

Republicans insisted it was necessary to control the skyrocketing costs of public employee benefits and close the budget shortfall. Democrats argued it was an attempt to gut public-sector labor unions, one of their core constituencies.

The public demonstrations all but shut down the Wisconsin state legislature for weeks. It also drew protesters by the tens of thousands, among them union supporters and public employees, who called the measure an attack on workers.

A group of Democratic lawmakers left the state for some time in an effort to not allow a quorum for a vote.

Later that year, the state Supreme Court upheld the controversial law, but the battle sparked a storm of political activism that led to the recall effort.

CNN's Paul Steinhauser, Alan Silverleib, Steve Brusk and Bill Mears contributed to this story

Filed under: Scott Walker • Wisconsin
soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. Bill

    What a surprise. Jail the SOB.

    June 19, 2014 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  2. Ol' Yeller

    And the whining accusations of witch hunts from the rightwingnutjob morons begin now....

    June 19, 2014 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |

    It's Bush's fault.

    June 19, 2014 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  4. Laz Smith

    Should have crashed his hard drive?

    June 19, 2014 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  5. Silence DoGood

    GOP – Gerrymandering, voter suppression, voter hardship, AND "illegal effort to coordinate fundraising between his campaign and outside conservative groups". The party of morality or NOT.

    June 19, 2014 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |

    Silence DoGood – Democrats Gerrymander just as much as republicans so don't make it sound like they're the only ones. In California you are required to carry ID on you at all times.

    Democrats, the party of sheer stupidity.

    June 19, 2014 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    "“And so I think it's pretty clear you have judges who are separate branches of government, at the state level certainly, but also at the federal level, who made it clear that they don't believe the case has been made," "

    LOL!!!!! A Dubya appointee who conveniently ordered that the prosecutors conducting the "John Doe investigation" destroy all records of the investigation? Yeah, that doesn't look at all suspicious in light of the allegations AND what these documents are showing, particularly the email from Walker to Turd Blossom.

    June 19, 2014 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  8. Marie MD

    LOL. It couldn't have happened to a more deserving moron! You can't make these things up.
    They should have recalled him but the people of Wisconsin fell asleep.

    June 19, 2014 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  9. Tim

    @ Ol'Yeller I would only cry witch hunt, because that is exactly what all of the liberals cry when they get in trouble. But, actually, I don't think I need to cry witch hunt at all. This story seems pretty shady to me. It sounds more like a bunch of rhetoric and not much substance to it. Based on what I read here, I did not see much in the way of evidence of any wrong doing. It isn't illegal anywhere for any political candidate to email someone out of state. Seems that the accusation they are making is that he received out of state funds for the recall effort which I am guessing is illegal in Wisconsin. It is hard to tell though as this story is clearly pretty one-sided, and the author made absolutely no attempt to actually state the law that he was accused of violating. Whether he played dirty or not, I can assure you he would not be the first politician to do so, and he isn't the only sitting politician that has done so. I am sure there are plenty of liberals who have played just as dirty. It does irk me that our politicians are dirty, but it irks me to no end when there are mindless drones out there who actually believe that only one side does it. This is one of those things that will have to play itself out. I would be interested in seeing how this proceeds. I do find it interesting that we are literally months from an election, and all of the sudden there is this magical information of wrongdoing. I wonder what tune the media will be singing if Walker loses the election and afterwards is cleared of any wrongdoing? I bet they will be singing no tune at all, because they will simply bury the story. I no more trust a story from the news media than I would trust a homeless man telling me he doesn't have enough gas to get back to where ever he came from. The difference is that I have a choice about giving the homeless man money, fyi I usually do anyway, but I have no choice about giving money to the crooks in political offices. I did find a certain sense of satisfaction when Walker got rid of the collective bargaining rights, though. I find it hilarious that liberals are so "concerned" with playing fair but choose not to see how unfair it is to use the public's money to simply purchase the votes through social programs.

    June 19, 2014 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |

    Nothing even remotely close to the massive scandals by Obama and his administration.

    June 19, 2014 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  11. DC

    This is just more sour grapes from unions and Democrats who made WI taxpayers waste millions on an unwarranted recall effort. Prosecutorial powers should be reserved for actual crimes, not partisan opposition research.

    June 19, 2014 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |

    Conservatives treat most people accused by a prosecutor as guilty. If they have any integrity any consistency they will tar Walker with that same brush.

    June 19, 2014 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  13. Rob

    Typical, There is more than enough illegal activity from most Democrats and the lose the recall so now the start crying. 2 other courts said the isn't a case so it sounds like the Dems are trying to cloud the next election with lies which is typical for the Democratic party

    June 19, 2014 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  14. The Real Tom Paine

    Nonsense. How could Scott Walker, that paragon of virtue, possibly be involved in something like this? It must be the fault of that Black Panter, white hating, communist, neo-Nazi, anti-woman, anti-gun, tree-hugger, gay-loving, pro-abortion Obama, coordinating this from his cousin's secret lair in Nairobi.

    Did I hit all the high points? Oh, yes. BENGHAZI!!!!!!!! IRS!!!!!! NSA!!!!!!! ARAB SPRING!!!!!!! Now are all the boxes checked for the whack jobs? If so, you can go to bed now.

    June 19, 2014 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  15. Jerry

    Great now impeach him

    June 19, 2014 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  16. Bobloblaw

    These are documents from a case that was thrown out for lack of evidence. A federal judge ruled against the DA in this Case. These are documents related to the case that was tossed.

    June 19, 2014 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  17. Bobloblaw

    Sorry liberals. Walker was exonerated by the judge who tossed out the case. You liberals forgot to read this part

    ""That revelation came from thousands of documents in a now-closed case in which six of Walker’s former aides were convicted.

    Walker was never accused of any wrongdoing nor was he investigated.""

    June 19, 2014 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  18. Lars

    I'm totally shocked that Scott Walker's illegal political scheme doesn't warrant a bigger headline from CNN.

    This is big news, and has had a significant impacted on how Republicans have modeled their national political aspirations and scheming based on what Scott and Carl Rove had done in Wisconsin win outside political dollars.

    June 19, 2014 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  19. BErnard

    im not suprise it corruption there

    June 19, 2014 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  20. Gunderson

    News Flash: Governor was sighted downing a piece of Cheese during his Official duties! Scandal !!! Off with his head!

    June 19, 2014 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  21. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    Deny, deny, deny... Snott Walker's calling card. He's about as slimey as they get. So, Snott... How was it again that you got kicked out of Marquette University?

    June 19, 2014 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  22. Chuck

    Get in Line behind Obama's 8 Scandals

    June 19, 2014 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  23. James

    Looks like CNN went lightweight on this heavy story. Seems like a trend.

    June 19, 2014 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  24. thaddy

    After reading the entire article it appears walker did absolutely nothing wrong. If he runs for president, he has my vote.

    June 19, 2014 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  25. greasemonkey

    Are prison guards in Wisconsin union?

    ....probably was a bad idea to throw them under the bus when your actions make it likely that you will spend a few years in their custody.

    June 19, 2014 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
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