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Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014

More Damning Revelations about Scott Walker’s Alleged ‘Criminal Scheme’

The governor raised anonymous and corporate funds for Wisconsin Club for Growth

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Although Gov. Scott Walker claims that he did nothing wrong when he allegedly solicited funds for the independent conservative group Wisconsin Club for Growth, new evidence revealed in the stalled John Doe investigation seems to indicate otherwise.

Wisconsin campaign finance law is clear on whether a candidate, such as Walker, or a candidate’s agent, such as political operative R.J. Johnson, can work with outside groups such as Wisconsin Club for Growth.

If there’s any coordination and money is spent, then it has to be reported on the candidate’s campaign finance reports.

“Failure to enforce Wisconsin law in regard to such coordinated expenditures would mean a candidate, his agents or a personal campaign committee could solicit millions of dollars in funds from individual and corporate donors, direct those funds to a 501(c)(4) organization and then direct the expenditure of those funds to benefit the candidate’s campaign—all without the electorate’s knowledge,” asserted special prosecutor Francis Schmitz in one court document.

Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Citizens United and McCutcheon, which opened the doors to even more money in elections, still don’t invalidate Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws on coordination and disclosure.

 

Walker Personally Asked for Money

The evidence presented by prosecutors raises a lot of questions about Walker’s fundraising during the 2011 and 2012 recalls.

As indicated in previous filings, prosecutors allege that three campaign operatives were working for both the governor’s campaign committee, Friends of Scott Walker, and the Wisconsin Club for Growth (WiCFG)—top advisor R.J. Johnson, Texas-based fundraiser Kate Doner and Kelly Rindfleisch, who pleaded guilty to misconduct in office for raising funds for a lieutenant governor candidate in 2010 while also working for Walker, then the Milwaukee County executive.

The prosecutors allege that Walker was intimately involved in the scheme to use Wisconsin Club for Growth as his affiliated campaign committee that could accept funds his personal campaign committee couldn’t—corporate money and anonymous donations. Some of their evidence includes:

■ Kate Doner emailed Johnson in April 2011: “The Governor is encouraging all to invest in the Wisconsin Club for Growth. Wisconsin Club for Growth can accept Corporate and Personal donations without limitations and no donors disclosure.”

■ Another email from a Doner associate in March 2012 to Walker himself said, “This meeting is for WiCFG Funds” and “THE ASK: contribute $100k to WiCFG.”

■ In August 2011, Walker’s campaign manager, Keith Gilkes, advised Walker to say on a donor call: “Our efforts were run by Wisconsin Club for Growth and operatives R.J. Johnson and Deb Jordahl, who coordinated spending through 12 different groups. Most spending by other groups was directly funded by grants from the club.”

■ Walker himself met with or spoke to conservative donors including David Hanna of Hanna Capital; hedge fund manager Paul Singer; billionaire and school choice backer Bruce Kovner; Steven Cohen of SAC Capital Advisors, which was indicted for insider trading; reality TV personality Donald Trump; Home Depot founder Ken Langone; Devon Energy’s Larry Nichols and others who shortly thereafter donated to Wisconsin Club for Growth. Cohen’s $1 million donation appears to be the largest mentioned by prosecutors; it was reported on the Wisconsin Club for Growth’s 2012 tax filing but its source was not disclosed publicly or to the Internal Revenue Service. The organization raised $8 million that year, but prosecutors don’t state how much of that was directly solicited by Walker.

■ Operative R.J. Johnson was paid by Walker’s campaign and Wisconsin Club for Growth and also received checks from advertising agencies, indicating that he was earning commissions on political ads placed by Walker’s campaign and allied organizations.

■ Gogebic Taconite LLC directly donated $700,000 to Wisconsin Club for Growth during 2011 and 2012, while Walker and state Republicans were pushing for a bill that would loosen mining regulations and promote the company’s attempt to launch an open-pit iron mine in northern Wisconsin. After the donation, the bill was passed by the Republican-dominated Legislature and signed by Walker.