- Associated Press - Thursday, July 16, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The latest on the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision Thursday in a case involving Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign (all times local):

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1:05 p.m.

A conservative group is cheering the end of an investigation into allegations that it and other groups illegally coordinated with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign during his 2012 recall election.

The Wisconsin Club for Growth was among several groups accused of violating election law. The state’s Supreme Court on Thursday effectively tossed out the investigation, ruling that the state’s campaign finance law doesn’t prohibit such coordination.

Todd Graves, an attorney for the group, praised the high court’s ruling and accused the government of trying to “threaten and embarrass” groups they don’t like.

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12:21 p.m.

The prosecutor leading an investigation into whether Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s recall campaign illegally coordinated with conservative groups says he’s disappointed with a state Supreme Court decision halting the probe.

The high court ruled Thursday that campaign finance law doesn’t prohibit such coordination.

Prosecutor Francis Schmitz said in an email to The Associated Press that it’s unfortunate people won’t get a public discussion of the facts. He said he wasn’t given a chance to respond to what he says was a campaign of misinformation about the investigation since the Supreme Court refused to hold oral arguments.

He declined comment on whether he may ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the ruling.

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10:38 a.m.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign is trumpeting a state Supreme Court decision ending an investigation into whether his 2012 recall campaign illegally coordinated with conservative groups as vindication.

Walker is seeking the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. His campaign spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, says Thursday’s ruling confirmed no one broke any laws.

She says it’s time to move past what she called an unwarranted investigation that has cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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9:50 a.m.

Political observers say a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision ending an investigation into whether Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign illegally coordinated with conservative groups clears the way for unregulated coordination between candidates and supporters.

The high court ruled Thursday that issue advocacy - campaign ads that don’t expressly call for a candidate’s victory or defeat - can’t be regulated.

Howard Schweber is a UW-Madison political science and legal studies professor. He says the ruling essentially means political action committees can run candidates’ campaigns.

Jay Heck, executive director of government watchdog group Common Cause in Wisconsin, says the ruling will allow special interests to seize complete control of state government.

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9:15 a.m.

Wisconsin Supreme Court justices cited free speech in effectively tossing out the secret investigation into whether Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign illegally coordinated with conservative groups in winning his 2012 recall election.

The high court ruled Thursday state election law is overbroad and vague in defining what amounts to “political purposes.”

Justice Shirley Abrahamson, one of two liberals on the seven-member court, sharply disagrees and accuses the majority of a faulty interpretation of state law. Abrahamson says the opinion delivers a significant blow to Wisconsin’s campaign finance law.

The court’s action is a major victory for Walker as he pursues the presidency, though one expert says prosecutors could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. No one has been charged in the John Doe probe, Wisconsin’s version of a grand jury investigation.

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7:45 a.m.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has handed Republican presidential hopeful Scott Walker a major victory by ending an investigation into whether the governor’s 2012 recall campaign coordinated illegally with conservative groups.

No one had been charged in the investigation, but questions about the probe have dogged Walker for months. The court’s action Thursday eliminates a legal headache for Walker, who is in his first week campaigning since declaring the White House bid.

The case revolves around political activity by Wisconsin Club for Growth and other conservative groups during the 2012 recall election, which was spurred by Democratic anger over Walker’s law that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers.

Prosecutors in Milwaukee accused Walker’s campaign and the groups of violating state law by coordinating their efforts. The groups denied wrongdoing.

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12:01 a.m.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is set to announce whether investigators can resume a wide-ranging and secret probe into alleged election law violations during the Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign.

Questions about the investigation have dogged Walker for months. He’s in the first week of campaigning since announcing a 2016 bid for president.

At issue is whether Walker’s 2012 recall campaign and several conservative groups illegally coordinated their activities. The recall effort was spurred by Democratic anger over Walker’s successful drive to effectively end collective bargaining for most public workers.

Walker and the groups have denied any wrongdoing and called the probe a violation of their free-speech rights.

No one has been charged in the John Doe probe, Wisconsin’s version of a grand jury investigation.

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