Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) dealt with the “John Doe” investigations into alleged political misconduct for quite a while, and despite troubling evidence, the Republican governor’s allies on the state Supreme Court ended the probe last summer.
But while the investigation may no longer exist, the revelations from the controversy continue. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported yesterday:
Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled Legislature approved a measure aimed at retroactively shielding paint makers from liability after a billionaire owner of a lead producer contributed $750,000 to a political group that provided crucial support to Walker and Republicans in recall elections, according to a report released Wednesday.Citing leaked documents gathered during a now-shuttered investigation into the governor’s campaign, the Guardian U.S., an arm of the British newspaper, reported that Harold Simmons, owner of NL Industries, a producer of the lead formerly used in paint, made three donations totaling $750,000 to the Wisconsin Club for Growth between April 2011 and January 2012.
The provision intended to help the Republican donor’s business, the article added, “was inserted in a budget bill in the middle of the night despite warnings about its constitutionality.”
To briefly recap what the “John Doe” controversy was all about, Wisconsin election laws prohibit officials from coordinating campaign activities with outside political groups. There was, however, ample reason to believe Walker and his team were directly involved in overseeing how outside groups – including some allegedly non-partisan non-profits – spent their campaign resources during his successful recall election.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected the allegations, adopting a rather extreme approach to campaign-finance laws, giving Walker a free pass. But the Guardian’s reporting nevertheless sheds light on the Republican governor’s behind-the-scenes efforts – and what kind of benefits Walker’s supporters received.
In this case, Walker reached out to Simmons, encouraging him to donate generously to the right-wing Club for Growth, which helped keep the governor in office. Soon after, Walker and his GOP allies helped Simmons’ business, shielding it from lead-paint lawsuits.
The same reporting from the Guardian also took a broader look at how Walker and his team operated. Consider this anecdote about a question the governor posed in September 2011.
[Walker] asked his main fundraiser, Kate Doner, to write him a briefing note on how they could raise enough money to win the election. At 6.39am on a Wednesday, she fired off an email to Walker and his top advisers flagged “red”.“Gentlemen,” she began. “Here are my quick thoughts on raising money for Walker’s possible recall efforts.”Her advice was bold and to the point. “Corporations,” she said. “Go heavy after them to give.” She continued: “Take Koch’s money. Get on a plane to Vegas and sit down with Sheldon Adelson. Ask for $1m now.”
Last year, Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause Wisconsin, told MSNBC that the state “used to be considered a model for the nation in terms of good clean government and transparency. Now, however, “all the unique features that used to make Wisconsin a model – Republicans have stripped that away.”
The evidence to support those concerns seems pretty overwhelming.