The “John Doe” investigation going on in Wisconsin is by definition secret.
What we’ve learned about it, we’ve learned in bits and pieces. First, that investigators were looking at the 2011 and 2012 recall elections in the state. Then, that dozens of both local and national conservative groups — allies of Gov. Scott Walker (R) — had received subpoenas.
Now, court documents have turned up suggesting that prosecutors are trying to find whether the campaigns coordinated with groups engaged in “issue advocacy” work, according to The Wisconsin State Journal.
The filings were made as part of a federal lawsuit brought in February by the conservative group Wisconsin Club for Growth and Eric O’Keefe, one of its directors, against the special prosecutor and other officials involved in the John Doe investigation. The lawsuit asks the court to end the investigation and award damages to O’Keefe and Wisconsin Club for Growth.
In the filing highlighted by the State Journal, we get more details about the kinds of things prosecutors involved in the probe are interested in. According to the newspaper, the language suggests that “issue advocacy,” which does not expressly advocate the election or defeat of a particular candidate, has to be reported as campaign contributions anyway if it is done at the behest or coordinated with a campaign.
“Simply put, contributions to a candidate’s campaign must be reported whether or not they constitute express advocacy,” the brief states.
The prosecutors are asking the the judge on the case to throw out the lawsuit.
“The fact that a third party runs ‘issue ads’ versus ‘express advocacy ads’ is not a defense to illegal ‘coordination’ between a candidate’s authorized committee and third party organizations,” the brief states.
Read the whole thing here.