Is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) going to cut a deal to end the long-running investigation of his 2012 recall campaign?
Two articles published Wednesday suggested the possibility. Both The Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press reported that Steven Biskupic, a lawyer representing Walker’s campaign, has been in talks with Francis Schmitz, the special prosecutor who has overseen the secret “John Doe” probe.
Until a federal judge ordered a halt to their activities earlier this month, Schmitz and a group of state prosecutors were looking into allegedly illegal campaign coordination between Walker’s 2012 campaign and outside conservative groups.
According to the Journal, which wrote about the development in an unsigned editorial, those outside groups are now concerned that Biskupic “will cut a deal that would exonerate Mr. Walker while wresting concessions from some of Mr. Walker’s allies.” The Journal called the idea of a settlement “premature” and “puzzling,” given that the targets of the John Doe probe have made progress fighting the investigation in the courts.
In his ruling on May 6, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa wrote that “all or nearly all right-of-center groups and individuals in Wisconsin who engaged in issue advocacy from 2010 to the present [became] targets of the investigation.” Randa’s ruling came in response to a lawsuit brought by Wisconsin Club for Growth, one of the targeted groups, against the prosecutors. Randa’s sharply-worded ruling sided with the outside groups; he ordered the prosecutors to “cease all activities related to the investigation.”
An anonymous source confirmed to the Associated Press that Walker’s campaign and Schmitz have been in talks. Biskupic and Walker declined to comment to the AP.
In its editorial, the Journal wondered how the negotiations square with Randa’s ruling that the prosecutors “cease all activities” related to the probe.
“The backstage legal wrangling is even more troubling because prosecutors have limited scope to cut a deal under Judge Randa’s preliminary injunction, which explicitly froze prosecutors from actions against the Doe targets,” the newspaper wrote. “Any face-saving attempts by prosecutors to settle under terms that vindicate their campaign finance theories violate the spirit of the injunction and may put them in contempt of court.”