A federal appeals court on Wednesday removed an injunction halting an investigation into whether the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker illegally coordinated with conservative groups on fund-raising and spending as he sought to overcome a recall effort two years ago. The decision by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit raised the prospect that prosecutors could eventually resume the investigation even as Mr. Walker, who has been mentioned as a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2016, is engaged in a tight battle for re-election.
In ordering a halt to the investigation in May, U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Randa, a Republican appointee who has been active in conservative judicial-activist circles, argued that there was no problem with coordination between Walker and outside groups because it wasn’t as if the groups were trying to bring Walker over to their side by funding his anti-recall campaign: “[Wisconsin Club for Growth] obviously agree[s] with Governor Walker’s policies, but coordinated ads in favor of those policies carry no risk of corruption because the Club’s interests are already aligned with Walker and other conservative politicians,” Randa wrote in his ruling. “Such ads are meant to educate the electorate, not curry favor with corruptible candidates.”This is a striking claim, reminiscent of the Supreme Court’s recent rulings against limits on campaign contributions– that limits can only be justified as bars against explicit attempts to bribe politicians to change their stances on issues. But that’s not what at issue in the John Doe II investigation – the question is whether the outside groups exerted undue influence over the outcome of the recall by skirting the state’s rules on coordination. It is whether the state’s electoral system was corrupted, not whether Walker was.
Violating the spirit of campaign finance laws is really easy, as long as you take a few basic precautions such as not sending an email describing your control of expenditures that are supposed to be outside your control….. The most benign possibility is that Walker is quickly cleared, but the facts of the case would still raise serious questions about his intelligence. Sending an email explaining your plan to coordinate what’s supposed to be independent spending to the guy whose job it is to avoid campaign coordination is like if Walter White decided to cook meth in his high school chemistry classroom during school.