Everything you need to know about today’s oral arguments in Walker’s John Doe Lawsuit

Today, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals will release oral arguments in a lawsuit stemming from a John Doe investigation into Walker’s 2012 recall campaign. The probe began in February 2012, when evidence surfaced of illegal campaign coordination between Walker’s recall campaign and outside groups.

Like before, Walker will dismiss the evidence against him as partisan. But the facts don’t lie.

The investigation into Walker was launched by a bipartisan group of prosecutors, and the lead prosecutor is a self described supported of the governor. In addition, the probe was approved by Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board – the majority of which had been appointed or re-appointed by Walker himself.

Already this case has raised the specter of pay to play politics, with documents showing enormous secret  donations from mining interests for whom Walker signed favorable legislation. What else will come to light in this case? American Bridge will be watching.

Background

John Doe Probe Was Launched In February 2012

February 2012: A New Secret John Doe Investigation Was Launched Looking Into Possible Campaign Violations Related To The Governor’s Race. According to The Chippewa Herald, “A new secret John Doe investigation has been launched in Milwaukee County looking into possible campaign violations related to a legislative leader and the governor’s race, a newspaper is reporting. The State Journal confirmed the existence of a sealed John Doe investigation, first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Monday, that was launched in February 2012 and is being overseen by Kenosha County Circuit Judge Barbara Kluka.” [The Chippewa Herald, 10/22/13]

Wisconsin Club For Growth sued to end the probe

Wisconsin Club For Growth Sued In Federal Court To End The John Doe Probe Over Walker’s 2012 Recall Election. According to the Associated Press, “A group that advocates for conservative causes and its director filed a federal lawsuit Monday asking to end a secret investigation related to campaign fundraising and spending in recent recall elections, including the 2012 effort to oust Gov. Scott Walker. The lawsuit, by the Wisconsin Club for Growth and director Eric O’Keefe, was filed in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee against federal prosecutors and the judge overseeing the ongoing John Doe probe.” [Associated Press, 2/10/14]

Lawsuit Was Appealed In Federal Court

Prosecutors And Investors Had Asked The 7th Court Of Appeals To Review A Decision By A Federal Judge Not Dismissing The Lawsuit Against Them. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Nickel’s brief is one of a series filed with the federal court on Tuesday in a bid by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and his aides to get a federal appeals court to intervene in the high-profile John Doe probe. Chisholm and two other prosecutors filed paperwork Tuesday to have the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals review a decision last week by U.S. District Judge Rudolph T. Randa in Milwaukee refusing to dismiss the lawsuit against them. The prosecutors need Randa’s approval to get their case before the appeals court. They also are asking Randa to halt the case until the appeals court rules — a move that would prevent prosecutors from getting deposed by the targets of the investigation.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4/15/14]

Prosecutors Alleged That Walker Was Part Of A Nationwide Criminal Scheme To Coordinate Fundraising With Conservative Groups. According to the Associated Press, “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, took part in a nationwide criminal scheme to coordinate fundraising with conservative groups, prosecutors said in court documents unsealed Thursday.” [Associated Press, 6/19/14]

Prosecutors Said That There Was An “Extensive Coordination Scheme That Pervaded Nearly Every Aspect Of The Campaign Activities.” According to the Associated Press, “‘The evidence shows an extensive coordination scheme that pervaded nearly every aspect of the campaign activities’ during 2011 elections that decided control of the state Senate and the 2012 recall election, Schmitz said in the December filing.” [Associated Press, 6/19/14]

Prosecutors in John Doe Probe Came From Varied Political Allegiances, Lead Prosecutor was Walker Supporter 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial: John Doe Overseen By Five Prosecutors Of Varying Political Allegiances And Lead Prosecutor Is Republican Who Voted For Walker.  According to an Editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “The secret John Doe probe, a peculiarity of Wisconsin law, was launched by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat, and overseen by a state judge and five prosecutors who have allegiances to both political parties. The special prosecutor leading the investigation is a self-professed Republican who says he voted for Walker.” [Editorial – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/5/14]

Non-Partisan Government Accountability Board (GAB) Controlled By Walker Appointees Approved of Investigation

Wisconsin Government Accountability Board Intervened On Side Of Prosecutors In Federal Case.  According to the Wisconsin State Journal, “Wisconsin’s election board has asked to intervene in a federal lawsuit over a John Doe investigation into alleged illegal coordination and campaign spending involving Gov. Scott Walker and groups that support him. The state Government Accountability Board filed a motion Friday asking the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to allow the board to intervene in the case. The GAB noted in its filing that it is the agency responsible for administering Wisconsin’s campaign finance and election laws. The board has been a key player in the secret probe, and worked with prosecutors to start the investigation into conservative groups following the massive wave of recalls targeting Walker and other Republicans in 2011 and 2012.” [Wisconsin State Journal, 7/18/14]

Government Accountability Board Authorized John Doe Probe.  According to WSAU-Wheeler News, “New court filings show that the state Government Accountability Board authorized the John Doe probe into Republican campaign activity in Wisconsin’s recall elections. Board investigator Dean Nickel filed a brief yesterday in support of the effort by prosecutors to keep the investigation going. One of the targets — the Wisconsin Club for Growth — is trying to snuff out the secret probe, saying it violates the group’s constitutional rights to free speech and equal protections.” [WSAU Wheeler News, 4/16/14]

Government Accountability Board Was Required To Be Non-Partisan. According to the Government Accountability Board, “The G.A.B. is made up of six former judges, nominated by a panel of four Wisconsin Appeals Court judges, appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. The six board members serve staggered six-year terms; one member’s term expires each year.  Both the Board and its staff must be non-partisan.” [Government Accountability Board,Accessed 9/8/14]

Walker Appointed Or Re-Appointed Five Of Six Members Of The GAB

Government Accountability Board Is Comprised Of Six Former Judges Appointed By The Governor.  According to the Government Accountability Board, “The Government Accountability Board is comprised of six former judges who serve staggered, six-year terms. Board members are appointed by the Governor, and serve part time, receiving per diems of $445.15 per meeting.” [Government Accountability Board, Accessed 9/8/14]

  • Five Of Six Members Of The Board Had Been Appointed Or Re-Appointed To The Board By Walker.  According to the Government Accountability Board,  Judge Harold V. Froehlich, Judge Timothy Vocke, Judge John Franke, Judge Elsa Lamelas, and Judge Gerald C. Nichol were all appointed or re-appointed by Gov. Scott Walker. [Government Accountability Board, Accessed 9/8/14]

Attorneys For Prosecutors: “For This Court To Accept Plaintiffs’ Prodigious Tale Of Bad-Faith Retaliation, It Would Need To Conclude That All Of The Individuals Involved In The John Doe Proceedings […]Violated Their Oaths Of Office And Willfully Participated In State Criminal Proceedings For The Sole Purpose Of Persecuting Plaintiffs And Conservative Groups For Their Political Speech.”   According to Defendants-Appellants’ Joint Reply Brief

On Appeal Of Motions To Dismiss And Preliminary Injunction, “For this Court to accept Plaintiffs’ prodigious tale of bad-faith retaliation, it would need to conclude that all of the individuals involved in the John Doe Proceedings— five different Wisconsin district attorneys (two of whom are elected Republicans), retired Wisconsin judges appointed to be the judges of these John Doe Proceedings, a career federal prosecutor that was judicially appointed to be the John Doe special prosecutor, career investigators, and a non-partisan state agency comprised of six former Wisconsin judges—violated their oaths of office and willfully participated in state criminal proceedings for the sole purpose of persecuting Plaintiffs and conservative groups for their political speech.” [Defendants-Appellants’ Joint Reply Brief On Appeal Of Motions To Dismiss And Preliminary Injunction, 9/8/14]

Documents Released In The Probe Raised Allegations Of Pay To Play Politics

According to documents uncovered during the stalled John Doe investigation into Scott Walker, the Wisconsin Club For Gwoth received a secret $700,000 donation from mining company Gogebic Taconite, which sought to open northern Wisconsin lands for mining. The Club For Growth was, at the time, led by a paid Walker campaign advisor.  Walker met with Gogebic Taconite several times with to discuss mining legislation and Walker constantly pushed for enactment of mining legislation. Walker signed legislation relaxing environmental standards for iron ore mining and Gogebic Taconite received nearly $1 million in tax relief.

Tomah Journal: “Absent The [John Doe] Investigation, Gogebic Taconite’s $700,000 Investment In The 2012 Gubernatorial Recall Campaign Would Have Remained Forever Secret” According to an editorial published by The Tomah Journal, “To those inclined to criticize the John Doe investigation of Gov. Scott Walker, consider this: Absent the investigation, Gogebic Taconite’s $700,000 investment in the 2012 gubernatorial recall campaign would have remained forever secret.” [The Tomah Journal – Editorial, 9/4/14]

New York Times Editorial: $700,000 Donation To WCFG  “Shocking From An Ethical Viewpoint.” According to an editorial in the New York Times,Last year, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and the Republican-controlled State Legislature approved the world’s largest open-pit iron ore mine, a gash in the northern part of the state that could be as long as 21 miles, a half-mile wide and 1,000 feet deep.[…]  It turns out to be even more shocking from an ethical viewpoint. Newly released documents show that the mine operator, Gogebic Taconite, secretly gave $700,000 to a political group that was helping the governor win a 2012 recall election. Mr. Walker had urged big corporations to give unlimited amounts, without fear of public disclosure, and many companies that wanted favors from the state happily obliged. Once the recall failed, the favors began to flow, even at the expense of the state’s natural resources. [Editorial – New York Times, 8/31/14] 

  • New York Times Editorial: “Unlimited Secret Donations Pervert American Politics […]They Inevitably Produce The Appearance (And Often The Reality) Of Favoritism And Corruption.” According to an editorial in the New York Times, “Unlimited secret donations pervert American politics, at the state and national levels. They inevitably produce the appearance (and often the reality) of favoritism and corruption, and, in this case, their toxic residue will literally flow into the clean waters of northern Wisconsin.” [Editorial – New York Times, 8/31/14]

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial: “Smarmy Politics Glimpsed In A Recent Batch Of Documents Released By A Federal Appeals Court Is Discouraging For Democracy.” According to an Editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “The smarmy politics glimpsed in a recent batch of documents released by a federal appeals court is discouraging for democracy. […] ■The company that wants to open a massive open-pit iron mine in northern Wisconsin donated $700,000 to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, and then Walker and Republicans in the Legislature raced to pass a bill that makes the mine more likely to happen.” [Editorial – Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 9/5/14]

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial: Unclear If Coordination Was Illegal, But No Doubt Coordination Occurred.. According to an Editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “There is no doubt that the campaign coordinated with the club. Operative R.J. Johnson worked for both. Walker himself urged donors to channel money to the group ‘to ensure correct messaging.’Whether there was illegal coordination is far less clear, despite the claims of prosecutors. They are challenging a decision handed down in May by U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa that halted the investigation. Randa found no evidence of wrongdoing and that the investigation violated the targets’ right to free speech..” [Editorial – Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 9/5/14]

Walker And Allied Groups  Received Campaign Contributions From Gogebic Taconite 

Walker Received $10,000 In Campaign Contributions From Gogebic Taconite Owner Chris Cline And President John Dickinson II. According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, “Republican Governor-elect Scott Walker accepted $10,000 in campaign contributions from a mining company owner and one of his executives around the time the company reportedly contacted Walker about developing an open-pit iron ore mine, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review found. […] Walker’s latest campaign report shows he received $8,000 from Cline and $2,000 from John Dickinson II of Jupiter, Florida on September 24. Cline owns Gogebic Taconite which purchased an option in last spring to lease the mineral rights on 22 miles of land in Iron and Ashland counties.” [Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, 12/15/10]

Executives With Gogebic Taconite, As Well As Members Of The Law Firm That Represent The Company, Contributed A Total Of More Than $40,000 In Campaign Contributions To Republican Candidates Involved With The Mining Issue, Including Walker. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, “According to data from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, executives with Gogebic Taconite, as well as members of the law firm that represent the company, contributed a total of more than $40,000 in 2010 campaign contributions to Republican candidates involved with the mining issue – Gov. Scott Walker, Honadel, Shirl Labarre, and Jeff Plale. Labarre, of Hayward, and Plale, of South Milwaukee, both lost their elections.” [Wisconsin State Journal, 5/7/11]

Gogebic Taconite Contributed To The Republican Governors Association

August 2010: Gogebic Taconite Donated $25,000 To The Republican Governors Association. According to OpenSecrets, “Amount: $25,000         Donor: Gogebic Taconite LLC  City: Palm Beach Gardnes FL     Date: 8/20/10” [OpenSecrets, Accessed 6/12/14]

Gogebic Taconite Gave $700,000 To Wisconsin Club For Growth

Wisconsin Club For Growth Donors Included Donald Trump Who Gave $150,000 And Gogebic Taconite Who Gave $700,000. According to the Associated Press, “Other Wisconsin Club for Growth donors included Gogebic Taconite LLC, which has proposed opening a 4 ½-mile long iron mine in northern Wisconsin. The company gave $700,000 to Club for Growth in 2011 and 2012. Walker signed legislation last year streamlining state mining requirements and paving the way for the project. The documents don’t show whether Walker directly solicited donations from that company. A spokesman for the company did not return a message seeking comment. ” [Associated Press, 8/22/14]

Walker’s Advisors Had Told Him To Steer Money To WCFG

Emails Release In John Doe Probe Showed That Campaign Advisors Told Walker To Solicit Donations For Conservative Group Backing Him.  According to the Associated Press, “Newly released court documents include excerpts from emails showing that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election campaign team told him to instruct donors to give to a key conservative group that would run ads for Walker and distribute money to other conservative groups backing him.” [Associated Press, 8/22/14]

Walker Was Personally Involved In Securing Approval Of Gogebic Mine

Walker Met With Gogebic Taconite Several Times

Walker And Gogebic Taconite Discussed The Company’s Concerns On Several Occasions. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Seitz said Gogebic and Walker have discussed the company’s concerns on several occasions. On Wednesday, Walker said that if a bill is passed early next year, Gogebic could get started in 2013.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12/3/12]

Gogebic Taconite Lobbied For Legislation To Ease The Permitting Process

Gogebic Taconite Lobbied For Legislation To Dramatically Shorten The Permitting Process To Build An Iron Ore From Five Years To One Year. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, “The company seeking to build a $1.5 billion iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin is lobbying for legislation that would dramatically shorten the permitting process for such operations, from five years or more to less than a year. Lobbyists and officials with Gogebic Taconite, or GTac, have approached numerous legislators with their proposal. State Sen. Robert Jauch, D-Poplar, said company officials met with him twice recently to lay out their legislative agenda.” [Wisconsin State Journal, 5/7/11]

Representatives From Gogebic Taconite And Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Helped Write The Iron Ore Mining Permit Bill. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Who wrote the Assembly’s mining bill? That’s what many people wanted to know after a public hearing last Wednesday at State Fair Park when Republicans declined to provide details on who authored the legislation and whom they relied on for help. Now, details are emerging: The bill was largely written by five Republicans and their staffs who huddled for months with different parties, including the business lobby Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and representatives of iron ore mining company Gogebic Taconite, which wants to construct a mine in northern Wisconsin.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12/20/11]

  • Staff From Walker’s Office Contributed To The Bill. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “WMC, which is the state’s largest business lobby, and staff from Gov. Scott Walker also weighed in, according to legislators.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12/20/11]

Walker Signed Legislation Relaxing Environmental Protections For Iron Mining

March 2013: Walker Signed The Legislation Relaxing Environmental Protections For Iron Mining. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Gov. Scott Walker on Monday signed a bill that rewrites iron mining laws and could pave the way for construction of a $1.5 billion open pit mine in northern Wisconsin. […] The measure relaxes environmental protections for iron mining – but not other forms of mining – and provides more clarity to the state process of reviewing an iron ore mine application.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3/12/13]

Walker Repeatedly Pushed For The Iron Ore Mine

Walker Said He Was Giving Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Members “A Specific Assignment” To Lobby Lawmakers To Approve A Mining Bill. According to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Meanwhile on Thursday, Gov. Scott Walker spoke to a WMC conference and said he was giving its members a ‘specific assignment’ to lobby lawmakers to approve a mining bill. He has praised the Assembly bill in the past, but he did not say whether lawmakers should accept that version of the bill or pass something different.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2/17/12]

Walker Said That Iron Mining Should Be The Primary Focus Because Gogebic Taconite Is Interested. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Walker said that iron mining should be the primary focus because Gogebic Taconite is interested; much of the work on the legislation has been done; and the possible damage to the environment is not as large.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 11/29/12] 

Walker Urged Crowds In Milwaukee, Rhinelander, And Green Bay To Push Lawmakers To Pass A Mining Bill Which Would Streamline Mine Permitting And Clear The Way For An Iron Mine. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, “Gov. Scott Walker is taking his fight for passage of a controversial mining bill to the public in a last-ditch effort to save the legislation – and possibly, salvage the legislative session. The governor on Tuesday urged crowds in Milwaukee, Rhinelander and Green Bay to push lawmakers to pass the measure, which streamlines mine permitting and could clear the way for a $1.5 billion open-pit mine and the 700 jobs officials said it could bring to the state.” [Wisconsin State Journal, 2/29/12]

Walker Prevented Changes To Bill That Would Have Increased Taxes On Mining Companies

Walker Opposed Charging Mining Companies A Tax Based On How Much Ore Is Taken Out Of The Ground. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said Wednesday some Senate Republicans want to modify mining legislation so that iron mining companies are charged a tax based on how much ore is taken out of the ground, but that he and Gov. Scott Walker oppose such a change.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2/14/13]