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Scott Walker’s Right-Wing Network Exposed

Unsealed John Doe documents detail the governor’s ‘criminal scheme’

Jun. 25, 2014
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Scott Walker
Republican Gov. Scott Walker may be arguing that the John Doe investigation into alleged illegal campaign coordination in 2011 and 2012 is dead as a doornail, but the 266 pages of unsealed court documents released last week showed the public what the bipartisan team of prosecutors has been investigating. According to the prosecutors, here are the main players in what they allege is a nationwide “criminal scheme”:

Scott Walker: The governor was at the hub of what prosecutors say was a national “criminal scheme” meant to subvert the state’s campaign finance laws. Walker not only raised funds for his own campaign, but also for the Wisconsin Club for Growth for “coordinated activities” organized by his longtime political advisor, R.J. Johnson. Prosecutors say Walker participated in conference calls about the 2011 and 2012 recall election strategy and bragged in an email to Karl Rove about their coordinated efforts.

R.J. Johnson: This close political advisor to Walker also did double-duty for the Wisconsin Club for Growth and prosecutors say he was the conduit for the outside money. The national arm of the Club for Growth was concerned about Johnson’s activities as far back as 2009, when he was also working for Walker’s gubernatorial campaign. Johnson and his business partner Deb Jordahl also set up the phony issue ad group Citizens for a Strong America (CSA), which operated out of a post office box in Columbus, Wis. The Wisconsin Club for Growth spent $9.1 million on the recalls and poured $4.6 million into the CSA.

Deborah Jordahl: This frequent guest on Charlie Sykes’ show is Johnson’s longtime business partner and together they set up CSA. R.J. Johnson and Associates paid her at the same time she issued checks for the Wisconsin Club for Growth, prosecutors say.

Wisconsin Club for Growth: The group and its director, Eric O’Keefe, are suing in federal court to stop the John Doe investigation, claiming that prosecutors are violating their civil rights. Conservative U.S. Judge Rudolph Randa shut down the investigation, but his order is being reviewed by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. Wisconsin Club for Growth spent $9.1 million on the recalls and allegedly served as the hub of the coordinated activities. R.J. Johnson claimed to have been in control of the group at the same time he was a paid political advisor to Walker.

Kate Doner and Doner Fundraising: This Texas-based fundraising outfit specializes in conservative candidates and causes. Prosecutors say they were raising funds for Walker and the Wisconsin Club for Growth.

Kelly Rindfleisch: Prosecutors say Rindfleisch was a fundraiser for both the Friends of Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Club for Growth. Rindfleisch was convicted of misconduct in public office in 2012 for raising funds for Republican lieutenant governor candidate Brett Davis in 2010 while working for Walker during his tenure as Milwaukee County executive. She is appealing that conviction.

Mary Stitt: Walker’s longtime fundraiser who also worked as a fundraiser for Wisconsin Club for Growth, prosecutors say.

Keith Gilkes: Walker’s campaign manager served as his gubernatorial chief of staff through most of 2011, when prosecutors allege he was included in discussions involving coordination between several organizations. Gilkes was included in discussions about coordination in 2012, when he was managing Walker’s campaign, prosecutors allege.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce: The state’s big-business lobby received $2.5 million from Wisconsin Club for Growth, which it deposited into the bank account of its political arm and used to pay for ads supporting Walker. Prosecutors say Walker participated in conference calls with WMC Senior Vice President James Buchen and others regarding the recall elections strategy.

United Sportsmen of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Family Action and Wisconsin Right to Life: These groups received money from Johnson and Jordahl’s Citizens for a Strong America, which prosecutors say was used for a deceptive absentee ballot scheme during the recalls. 

Republican State Leadership Committee: This national political group aims to elect Republicans in statehouses across the country and allegedly was part of the right-wing recall network. It launched REDMAP to elect Republicans in the 2010 elections and draw GOP-friendly legislative maps as part of the once-a-decade redistricting process.

Allied Groups: Prosecutors argue that Walker’s “criminal scheme” included “open and express discussions of the need to coordinate the activities” of likeminded groups, which began in March 2011. Among the prosecutors’ targeted groups are the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth, Republican Party of Wisconsin, Republican State Leadership Committee and the Republican Governors Association.


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