MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A federal judge’s decision to halt a secret investigation into illegal coordination between conservative groups and Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s recent recall campaign could have far-reaching implications for campaign finance law.
U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa on Tuesday ordered prosecutors to halt their investigation.
That order was put on hold Wednesday by an appeals court. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said Randa should not have issued the order without waiting for it to decide another appeal in the case.
Prosecutors leading the secret probe say if his decision stands, it would allow independent groups that don’t have to disclose their donors to collaborate with candidates who do. Candidates would then have access to vast amounts of money without voters ever knowing the source.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A federal appeals court on Wednesday put on hold a judge’s ruling halting a secret investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign and conservative groups that supported him.
A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled that U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa in Milwaukee was wrong to have entered a preliminary injunction Tuesday stopping the investigation, which had been a major victory for Walker.
The appeals court said the injunction was in error because the judge had yet to determine whether an appeal by prosecutors of an earlier decision that they were not immune from being sued was frivolous or not. If the judge determines that appeal is frivolous, the stay could be lifted, although prosecutors could ask for another one, the appeals court said.
The civil lawsuit challenging the investigation was brought by Wisconsin Club for Growth. Its attorney, as well as the attorney representing prosecutors, did not immediately respond to requests for comments on the stay.
The granting of the stay is the latest twist in the ongoing drama of the investigation that has largely been conducted in secret. The setback for Walker and his supporters came roughly 24 hours after the ruling in their favor, which they hailed.
“Obviously the reason this witch hunt was launched was to impugn the integrity of the governor and he has been completely vindicated,” said Mark Graul, a Republican strategist who ran President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign in Wisconsin.
The Tuesday ruling will help to silence Walker’s critics who tried to use the investigations against him, said Mike Maistelman, a Milwaukee attorney who represented Democratic and Republican elected officials in a variety of cases.