- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A federal appeals court on Wednesday overturned a ruling halting an investigation into Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and more than two dozen conservative groups for alleged illegal campaign activity. Some questions and answers about the case:

Q. What’s the gist of this investigation again?

A. Walker was the subject of recall elections in 2012 over the measure he pushed in 2011 to effectively end collective bargaining for most public workers. Prosecutors are looking into whether several conservative groups improperly coordinated with the Walker campaign during recalls, which also targeted Republican state senators, in both 2011 and 2012.

Q. What do the two sides say?

A. Prosecutors say the coordination was illegal. Walker and the conservative groups say it wasn’t, and they’ve portrayed the investigation as politically motivated. Besides being locked in a tough race to win a second term this year against Democrat Mary Burke, Walker’s a decent bet to run for president in 2016.

Q. So what happened Wednesday?

A: The federal appeals court said the issue belongs in state court, and they chastised the federal judge in Wisconsin, Rudolph Randa, who sent it their way. They said Randa abused his discretion. The court said uncertainty over the legality of what occurred is a “powerful reason to leave this litigation in state court, where it may meet its end as a matter of state law without any need to resolve these constitutional questions.”

Q. OK, so now what?

A. Nothing just yet. The case was also blocked at the state level because a judge had quashed subpoenas back in January on the grounds that there wasn’t enough evidence of wrongdoing. There’s a request in for the Wisconsin Supreme Court to resolve the matter. But Tuesday’s decision removes an important barrier to the case restarting. It also is a defeat for Walker and his allies, who had used Randa’s ruling as fodder to argue the whole thing was political.

Q. What’s the reaction?

A. Walker says the ruling’s impact is limited, given that the investigation remains halted. An attorney for the lead investigator said the decision adopts their argument in its entirety. The attorney for Wisconsin Club for Growth said the ruling is “simply wrong” and the group will ask the full 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear the case.

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