More noise is coming out of the legal fight over a secret investigation of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) 2012 recall campaign.
As TPM noted yesterday, Walker’s campaign and the special prosecutor overseeing the investigation have reportedly been in talks about a possible settlement. The long-running “John Doe” probe has focused on allegedly illegal campaign coordination between Walker’s 2012 campaign and outside conservative groups. But earlier this month, a federal judge, responding to a lawsuit filed by Wisconsin Club for Growth, ordered the group of prosecutors involved in the probe to “cease all activities” related to the investigation.
Reacting to the news of the settlement talks, a lawyer representing Wisconsin Club for Growth fired off a letter Wednesday. It was sent to a lawyer representing the special prosecutor, and it warned any settlement that violates Wisconsin Club for Growth’s “speech or associational rights” would violate the judge’s order. In turn, the special prosecutor’s lawyers went back to the judge, and asked him to clarify just what “cease all activities” meant, and whether it applied to state-level court proceedings connected to the probe as well as “discussions” with targets of the probe.
“Defendant now seeks clarification from the Court as to whether the preliminary injunction … enjoins Defendant’s discussions with counsel for individuals and organizations that were subjects of the John Doe proceedings and that are parties in the above-listed state-court proceedings,” lawyers for special counsel Francis Schmitz said in the motion filed on Wednesday.
The judge, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa, is no fan of the prosecutors. In his ruling on May 6, Randa not only sided with Wisconsin Club for Growth, he lauded the group for finding “a way to circumvent campaign finance laws,” which he said “should be recognized as promoting political speech.”
In his letter to Schmitz’s attorney on Wednesday, Wisconsin Club for Growth attorney David Rivkin demanded that Schmitz certify in writing that he is not trying to “circumvent” Randa’s ruling. Rivkin’s letter raises the possibility that a settlement would require “a settling party … not to associate with particular persons or groups in particular circumstances.”
“We do not object to your client abandoning the John Doe investigation, in whole or in part, in the context of a settlement,” Rivkin wrote. “That’s not what this is about. This is about Mr. Schmitz carrying out the investigation, and seeking to enforce his incorrect view of the law, by agreeing to settlements that undermine my clients’ associational and speech rights.”