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U.S. Supreme Court Should Have Taken Walker’s John Doe Case

Issue of the Week

Oct. 4, 2016
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The U.S. Supreme Court missed a major opportunity to clean up our elections system—and the judiciary—when it declined to hear an appeal of the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision shutting down the long-running John Doe investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s fundraising for dark money groups coordinated by the Wisconsin Club for Growth.

As we saw from court documents and leaked emails reported by the Guardian, Walker deliberately sought big money and corporate money for the Wisconsin Club for Growth to get around campaign finance limits and disclosure requirements for candidates like him and the Republican senators up for recall in 2011 and 2012. It’s shocking that the high court wouldn’t take on this case, since Walker’s actions seem to fly in the face of the court’s rulings and longstanding precedents on campaign finance disclosure and transparency. It also seems to give the green light to other candidates and groups to flout the law. Walker bragged that he was the only sitting governor to survive a recall election. He is also probably the only sitting governor who many believe is willing to commit a series of felonies to survive a recall election.

In addition, the court missed an opportunity to weigh in on when justices must recuse themselves from cases involving big campaign donors. As the leaked documents showed, Wisconsin Club for Growth coordinated a campaign to benefit then-Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, who was facing a tough re-election and who barely won his race. Prosser then sat on the John Doe case, in which the Walker-Wisconsin Club for Growth gang was being investigated, and voted to shut it down. Talk about a conflict of interest. 

Nineteen Democratic legislators are asking Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne to investigate some of the issues raised in the leaked documents, such as Walker’s seeming violation of the ban on soliciting corporate donations. But if that doesn’t happen, thanks to the leaked documents we already have evidence that Walker was the center of a highly unethical and corrupt scheme to hijack our elections and sell the state to the highest bidder.


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