A federal judge has reissued his order to stop an investigation into Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign, reversing Wednesday’s decision by a federal appeals court.
The new order by Judge Rudolph Randa puts a stop to more investigations into whether Walker’s campaign coordinated with conservative interest groups while fighting a recall challenge, but it does not reinstate his instruction to return all evidence collected during the investigation and destroy all copies.
The three -judge panel stayed the earlier injunction of the “John Doe” investigation, saying that U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa had overstepped his authority and he couldn’t order the evidence destroyed, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
In its ruling, the court gave Randa the option of reissuing his decision ending the probe.
In his decision, Randa said that the work done by the Wisconsin Club for Growth to support Walker’s campaign was protected as free speech. “The (Wisconsin Club for Growth and its treasurer) have found a way to circumvent campaign finance laws, and that circumvention should not and cannot be condemned or restricted. Instead, it should be recognized as promoting political speech, an activity that is ‘ingrained in our culture,’” he wrote.
The case could have major implications for independent groups’ spending in this year’s election. The Club for Growth had argued that the investigation would violate its first amendment rights.
Randa also said in his ruling that regulating issue advocacy from dark money groups was a path to tyranny.
“As other histories tell us, attempts to purify the public square lead to places like the Guillotine and the Gulag,” he wrote.
More than $63.5 million was spent by both sides in the recall election.
Until the ruling, details of the secret “John Doe” investigation into were scarce; Wisconsin law governing these investigations can keep people under investigation from speaking publicly. It is now clear that this investigation targeted a number of “right of center” political groups that aired ads during the 2012 campaign.
When emails subpoenaed through another John Doe investigation from Walker’s time as Milwaukee County Executive were released in February, it was revealed that employees in the County Executive office and his campaign staff set up a secret email network to coordinate strategy during business hours. One of Walker’s aides, Kelly Rindfleisch, pleaded guilty to misconduct in 2012.