Friday, June 27, 2014

No Conclusion in Inquiry Into Scott Walker’s Campaign Fund-Raising

By MONICA DAVEY, NYT
JUNE 26, 2014

CHICAGO — A special prosecutor investigating possible illegal fund-raising coordination between the Wisconsin campaign of Gov. Scott Walker and conservative groups has reached no conclusion as to whether there is enough evidence to charge anyone with a crime, the prosecutor’s lawyer said in a statement issued Thursday.

The statement followed the unsealing last week of court documents from the investigation into spending on recall elections in the state in 2012 and 2011. Their release ignited a political storm over whether Mr. Walker, a Republican who is seeking re-election and is often mentioned as a 2016 presidential candidate, played a pivotal role in campaign misdeeds. The investigation has been halted, at least for now, and no charges have been brought.

In one of the documents released last week and written in 2013, Francis D. Schmitz, the special prosecutor, described investigating a “criminal scheme” surrounding the recall elections, including a 2012 recall aimed at ousting Mr. Walker. Mr. Schmitz referred at one point to affidavits that, he wrote, “allege extensive unlawful activity involving Governor Scott Walker,” Mr. Walker’s campaign fund, Wisconsin Club for Growth and other outside groups. The document was prepared to help persuade a judge to permit investigators to proceed with subpoenas to gather evidence in the case.

Yet in the statement issued Thursday, Mr. Schmitz’s lawyer, Randall D. Crocker, said: “While these documents outlined the prosecutor’s legal theory, they did not establish the existence of a crime; rather, they were arguments in support of further investigation to determine if criminal charges against any person or entity are warranted.” Mr. Crocker also said that Mr. Walker, who is seeking a second term, had not been a target of the special prosecutor’s investigation when it was halted this year by a federal judge, and that the governor has not been served with a subpoena.

In recent days, Mr. Walker’s critics have pointed to the newly released documents as proof of wrongdoing, and a Democratic opponent, Mary Burke, cited the investigation in a new ad. Campaign aides to Mr. Walker viewed Mr. Crocker’s statement as vindication. “After the media’s slanderous reporting last week, today’s statement by prosecutors should serve as an opportunity for the media to correct the record and report the real facts of this story,” said Tom Evenson, communications director for Mr. Walker’s campaign.

This year, Gregory A. Peterson, the judge overseeing the investigation, quashed subpoenas, saying he had found no probable cause of campaign finance violations. And in May, Rudolph T. Randa, a federal judge, granted a preliminary injunction to halt the inquiry. The documents were unsealed last week as part of an appeal to that ruling, which is pending in the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago.

(More here.)

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