What We’re Learning About Scott Walker in the New John Doe Documents: UPDATED

Jun. 19, 2014
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Details, details. The bombshells are in the details of the 200+ pages of materials released by a federal judge in the ongoing investigation into the coordination of Scott Walker’s campaign and sympathetic special interest groups. 

According to the prosecutors:

  • Walker’s campaign overlapped with Wisconsin Club for Growth: Buried in footnote #23 on page 8 of Doe Exhibit C, “Those individuals [working for Walker's campaign] included 1) Scott Walker, the gubernatorial candidate; 2) Keith Gilkes—the FOSW [Friends of Scott Walker] campaign manager; 3) Kate Lind—treasurer for FOSW; 4) R.J. Johnson—a paid advisor to FOSW who worked for WiCFG [Wisconsin Club for Growth] and with CFSA [Citizens for a Strong America]; 5) Deborah Jordahl—an advisor to FOSW (who was paid by R.J. Johnson and Associates, a paid consultant to FOSW) who issued checks for WiCFG; Kate Doner and Doner Fundraising—fundraisers working for FOSW and WiCFG; 7) Kelly Rindfleisch—a fundraiser for FOSW and WiCFG; 8) Mary Stitt—a fundraiser for FOSW and WiCFG.”
  • Walker raised funds for Wisconsin Club for Growth: “In addition to fundraising for FOSW, Governor Scott Walker simultaneously raised funds for WiCFG for ‘coordinated activities’ under the control and direction of R.J. Johnson during the 2011 and 2012 Wisconsin Senate and Gubernatorial recall elections. Concurrently, R.J. Johnson directed many activities of both WiCFG and FOSW.”
  • Johnson and Jordahl "were" Wisconsin Club for Growth: “During the 2011 to 2012 Wisconsin State and Gubernatorial recall elections, R.J. Johnson exercised direction and control over WiCFG.” Later, “R.J. Johnson has stated 'We own CFG.'”
  • Johnson and Jordahl set up a phony special interest group: Citizens for a Strong America “was the creation of Deborah Jordahl and R.J. Johnson.”
  • Coordination started in March 2011, with R.J. Johnson as the hub: “Beginning in March 2011, there were open and express discussions of the need to coordinate the activities of entities like Americans for Prosperity (AFP), Club for Growth (CFG), Republican Party of Wisconsin (RPW), Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), and the Republican Governors Association (RGS). Conference calls were held involving entities such as FOSW, RGA and WMC.”
  • Actually, the coordination likely started earlier: “WiCFG is likely to possess relevant documentary evidence dating back to 2009.”
  • The national Club for Growth was concerned about Johnson’s coordination with Walker's campaign: Notably, prior to the 2011 Wisconsin Senate recall elections, the national Club for Growth organization raised concerns about coordination or interaction between WiCFG and FOSW as early as 2009. R.J. Johnson was a paid advisor to FOSW during the 2010 Gubernatorial election, and through at least January 2012.” In footnote #41, released as Exhibit 15, it says, “On April 28, 2009, David Keating the Executive Director of the (national) Club for Growth at that time told R.J. Johnson that Keating had ‘legal concerns’ about whether WiCFG should continue to run ads that featured Scott Walker, who had declared his candidacy for Governor. Keating requested that R.J. Johnson brief the CFG on legal issues prior to running such ads.”

  • Walker's chief of staff was in on all discussions: "During the 2011 Wisconsin Senate recall elections, Governor Walker’s Chief of Staff, Keith Gilkes, was included in discussions involving coordination between several different organizations.”

So here’s the rest of the story—or more of it, at least.

Special prosecutor Francis Schmitz is arguing that R.J. Johnson and his business partner Deb Jordahl used the Wisconsin Club for Growth (WiCFG) and the sham organization Citizens for a Strong America (CFSA) to coordinate campaign activities under the radar. R.J. was on Walker’s payroll as an advisor and strategist.

While the investigation is focused on the 2011 and 2012 recalls, Schmitz alleges that they were involved with CFSA long before the recalls—long before Walker was elected governor, in fact—as far back as March 2010, when Walker was Milwaukee County executive.

Schmitz reported that the national Club for Growth was concerned about Johnson’s entanglement as far back April 2009.

Schmitz argued that the Walker campaign’s coordination with these outside groups was illegal. If they were coordinating, then Walker would have had to report their financial activity on his campaign finance reports. He didn't. And, in addition, the folks who are involved in the outside groups are supposed to sign a pledge stating that they will not “act in concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, any candidate or agent or authorized committee of a candidate.”

Schmitz goes back to two big cases in Wisconsin campaign finance law, the decisions involving Justice Patrick Wilcox and an outside interest group that sent out postcards on his behalf, and former Majority Leader Chuck Chvala, who was convicted on charges of illegally coordinating fundraising and expenditures of “independent” entities. He argues that the Walker campaign did the same type of coordination and therefore the John Doe investigation into his activities is justified.

He also argued that just because the outside groups didn’t use “express advocacy” doesn’t mean that their messages don’t constitute “political purpose”—again, citing the decision in the Wilcox case.

Lastly, Schmitz argued that Walker and co. aren’t saying that they didn’t do it. They’re just saying that what they did isn’t illegal.

One month later, Judge Peterson rejected those arguments. At one point he wrote, “As a general statement, independent organizations can engage in issue advocacy without fear of government regulation. However, again as a general statement, when they coordinate spending with a candidate in order to influence an election, they are subject to regulation.”

He wrote that Schmitz didn’t argue that the groups used “express advocacy,” nor did he argue that “coordination of expenditures occurred.”

And then he halted the investigation.





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