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.

[twitter-follow screen_name='politicalticker']

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. kitn

    Well Wisconsin voters you got exactly what you voted for!!!!!-showing how easily it is to manipulate voters who let Fox 'contributors' think on their behalf.
    The GOP is frothing at the possibility of emails between these two crooks becoming public– because of course AGAIN Rove's name is everywhere – he should have paid a price long ago. He came close to getting indicted during Watergate. Cutting down their list of Oh So Illustrious presidential candidates.

    June 19, 2014 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  2. Winston Smith

    He's Wisconsin's headache. If they don't get rid of him, it's their cross to bear. On a national level, he's gone as far as he'll ever go.

    June 19, 2014 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  3. Name

    GOP Is basically a criminal organization.

    June 19, 2014 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  4. Lisa P

    Couldn't happen to a pretend-nicer guy 🙂

    June 19, 2014 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  5. Much thunder...little rain

    Cry babies ..this is all about loosing election last yr...

    June 19, 2014 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  6. Guts

    Hey, liberals, here's your phony scandal.

    June 19, 2014 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  7. Big Ben

    First Republican Gov, Rick Scott of Florida =Medicare/Medicaid fraud, then Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin = campaign/finance fraud, then Republican Gov. Chris Christy = Bridgegate.
    Is anyone surprised? They all have affiliations with the Koch brothers. The two men buying up the U.S. government.

    June 19, 2014 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  8. Thomas

    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker responds to prosecutors allegations that he's at center of criminal scheme over campaign fundraising .

    The guy is pure %100 sleez .

    He reminds me of a Nixon with a GED .

    June 19, 2014 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  9. Thom

    Romney outspent Obama 2-1 , see where that got him ?? Now the Koch brother want to waste a nice chunk of their fortune to try to buy elections...... Guess what ??? People are not stupid.....they enjoy clean air and water.....Duhhhhhh !!

    June 19, 2014 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  10. Randy, San Francisco

    Make Scott Walker, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers pay monthly room and board fees for their federal jail cells.

    June 19, 2014 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  11. Thomas

    Left wingers have to make something up so they don't sound like such losers. Keep digging left wing nuts! Dig deep enough so when you are done, you can bury yourself

    June 19, 2014 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  12. carl

    and the democrats do the same thing

    June 20, 2014 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  13. Wisconsin Gal

    "Don't believe the case has been made..." That's because a Judge in Republican stronghold Waukesha County is not allowing prosecutors to complete their investigation. That judge's ruling is currently under appeal.

    June 20, 2014 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  14. Name rs

    Gosh! Another crooked Republican, flaunting campaign laws. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Too bad they can't take down Mr. Rove as well.
    Their utter lack of ethics will be their undoing.

    June 20, 2014 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  15. Maripil

    Walker is soooo corrupt! He must be kicked out of office along with the rest of his republican cohorts!!!

    June 20, 2014 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  16. Terry Carlson

    As it says below this text entry box, "CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service."

    Bill intones, "What a surprise. Jail the SOB.", and Ol' Yeller courteously comments, "And the whining accusations of witch hunts from the rightwingnutjob morons begin now...."

    I leave you to draw your own conclusions!

    June 20, 2014 05:04 am at 5:04 am |
  17. sifto

    He needs WH and IRS to help delete emails..what a shame he is not democrat..

    June 20, 2014 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  18. croaton

    What a witch hunt. Two judges have already dismissed the claims.

    June 20, 2014 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  19. Steve- Illinois

    Funny how there is no mention of the 10's of thousands of loyal union "brothers and sisters" that immiediately dumped their union the minute the law took effect.

    June 20, 2014 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  20. MaryM

    Surprise, Surprise. We all knew Walker was a Koch lapdog and now we know why.

    June 20, 2014 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  21. Scott

    More of the liberals trying to dig up dirt trough bogus charges. You liberals are just upset because we have a Man in office is trying to make things better. Democrats are traitors to this country and are trying to destroy it.

    June 20, 2014 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  22. Chris

    This is a perfect example of the main-stream media obfuscating the truth. This case was thrown out by multiple judges but just made public yesterday. So what does CNN do, they write a story as if it were occurring today and the charges are outstanding. If this is how you like getting your news, keep depending on CNN.

    June 20, 2014 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  23. danicalifornia

    This is a non-issue but a smear campaign – 2 judges federal and state, said there is no case here. This was resolved a long time ago but is brought up by the special interests who are mad that they lost.

    June 20, 2014 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  24. Terry b

    Walker has dragged our state backward for the last three years giving him the title "the worst governor of our lifetime". A title that he so richly deserves. Lets hope that ignorance will not prevail in November and allow his reign of incompetence to continue.

    June 20, 2014 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  25. Name. willard

    Bush is not fault right that he was strongest out of terroist

    June 20, 2014 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
1 2 3