Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Allegedly Raised Illegal Campaign Funds
A federal lawsuit investigation alleges Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker raised illegal campaign funds for his recall campaign in 2012. According to the prosecutors, the investigation revealed an elaborate financial scheme that moved millions of dollars to Walker's campaign outside of traditional political action committees. The scheme involved about a dozen conservative groups, many of which not only funneled funds into Walker's 2012 recall campaign, but also those of several senators. Although no charges have been filed against Walker, this scandal could create far-reaching consequences for the polarizing governor.
According to investigation reports, an email between Walker and Republican strategist Karl Rove from May 2011 revealed that the governor's top campaign aid, R.J.Johnson, was at the helm of the illegal fund-raising:
Bottom line: R.J. helps keep in place a team that is wildly successful in Wisconsin. We are running nine recall elections and it will be like running nine congressional markets in every market in the state.
Johnson was reportedly one of the top advisers for the conservative group Wisconsin Club for Growth, which supported Walker's recall campaign. According to the prosecutors, Johnson used his connection with Wisconsin Club for Growth to also funnel in funds from several other conservative organizations, including Americans for Prosperity and Republican Governors Association.
The Associated Press added that the scheme also involved false campaign reports. "The scope of the criminal scheme under investigation is expansive," wrote lead investigator Francis Schmitz. "It includes criminal violations of multiple election laws."
Walker declined to comment to The AP, but his campaign did release a statement later this afternoon:
The Friends of Scott Walker campaign are not party to the federal suit and have no control over any documents in that suit. Two judges have rejected the characterizations disclosed in those documents.
The scandal comes at a tenuous time for Walker, who was widely seen as a leading candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential bid. The Wisconsin governor, who saw his Republican star soar in 2011 when he passed significant anti-collective bargaining laws, is currently seeking reelection. He faces two strong Democratic candidates in the 2014 gubernatorial race, and his lead has been flimsy at best: A Marquette Law School poll released in late May showed that Walker lost his seven-point lead, and is now tied with Democratic opponent Mary Burke at 46 percent. Walker's gubernatorial reelection is crucial if he wants to run for the Oval Office in two years.