Well this is a very interesting development, but hardly surprising. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is under investigation for a “criminal scheme” to get around campaign finance laws by coordinating his campaign with third-party groups pouring dark money into his race.
New federal court documents released Thursday reveal that Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) is the subject of a “Joe Doe” investigation. Prosecutors allege Walker was part of a “criminal scheme” to circumvent state election laws. While the courts are still mulling a motion by the dark money outside groups at the center of the allegations to stop the investigation, the facts of the case are yet another demonstration of the folly of the Supreme Court’s assumptions in the infamous Citizens United ruling.
The documents show that prosecutors believe illegal coordination occurred in the 2011 and 2012 Wisconsin Senate and Gubernatorial recall elections and that groups like the Wisconsin Club for Growth worked with Scott Walker’s campaign arm (“Friends of Scott Walker”) to arrange undisclosed spending by an array of pro-Walker tax-exempt organizations. They note that several individuals were working both for Friends of Scott Walker and Wisconsin Club for Growth at the time, and that Walker himself boasted of the coordination in an email to Karl Rove.
This is exactly the kind of coordination the Supreme Court assumed would not happen when they struck down limits on independent groups’ political spending in 2010. In his 5 to 4 majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that outside groups running “independent” campaign ads would not lead to corruption or even the appearance of corruption. “The appearance of influence or access, furthermore, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy. By definition, an independent expenditure is political speech presented to the electorate that is not coordinated with a candidate,” he argued.
The reality is that this goes on all the time and it isn’t limited to Republicans. Does anyone really believe that the third-party groups putting out ads to help a candidate win don’t work with those campaigns in the back room to craft a message and a strategy? Justice Kennedy is wildly out of touch with reality.