Top Five Takeaways From the Latest “John Doe” Documents in Walker Probe

Top Five Takeaways From the Latest "John Doe" Documents in Walker Probe

Newly released documents suggest Gov. Scott Walker was coordinating campaign activity with a purportedly independent group, perhaps violating state law

Hundreds of documents released last week by the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals provide further evidence that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was fundraising for Wisconsin Club for Growth, a political organization working on his behalf during recall elections in 2011 and ‘12. This type of coordination between an elected official and a purportedly independent group would appear to be a clear violation of campaign finance law.

The information revealed in the documents is “unprecedented’ said Jay Heck, Executive Director of Common Cause Wisconsin. “I can’t remember another governor ever engaging in this type of behavior in the state…The only protection the citizens of the state have against quid pro quo corruption is disclosure,” said Heck.

From Common Cause’s analysis, here are the top five quotes from the documents:

1.       Walker campaign consultant to Walker advisor: “As the governor discussed…he wants all the issue advocacy efforts run thru one group to ensure the correct messaging.” It appears from this message that Walker planned to direct all outside ads through a single group, Wisconsin Club for Growth and to coordinate its public messaging with his.


2.       Walker campaign consultant to Walker advisor: “The governor is encouraging all to invest in the Wisconsin Club for Growth. Wisconsin Club for Growth can accept Corporate and Personal donations without limitation and no donor disclosure.” As a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organization, Wisconsin Club for Growth can run political ads, but is not required to disclose its donors. This is exactly what happened in Wisconsin, and it looks like the Walker campaign wanted to take advantage of that.


3.       Walker advisor to Walker: “Stress that donations to WiCFG [Wisconsin Club for Growth] are not disclosed and can accept corporate donations without limits.” The message suggests Walker was eager to use Wisconsin Club for Growth to raise money from corporate donors legally barred from giving to his campaign committee.


4.       Scott Walker’s advisor Kelly Rindfleisch told Walker to inform donors that Wisconsin Club for Growth is “your 501c4.” Club for Growth has numerous state chapters, but it appears from this email that Scott Walker had control of the Wisconsin chapter, which reported more than $20.5 million in revenue between 2011 and 2012.


5.       Fundraising suggestions passed to Walker by campaign consultant Kate Doner: “Take Koch money” or “Get on a plane to Vegas and sit down with Sheldon Adelson. Ask for $1 mil now” or “Corporations. Go heavy after them to give.” Walker apparently took the advice to heart. Koch Industries contributed directly to Walker and the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity organization spent $700,000 on a “Stand with Walker” campaign. Meanwhile, Nevada casino magnate Adelson gave Walker $250,000 in 2012. It is unclear how much Koch, Adelson, or corporate money went into Wisconsin Club for Growth. 


The John Doe investigation of Scott Walker underscores why it’s so important that Congress pass the DISCLOSE Act to bring hidden political contributions into the open and the “Democracy for All amendment” to overturn Citizens United and allow Congress and the states to impose sensible limits on political spending.