MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Prosecutors overseeing the investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s recall campaign and other conservative groups are objecting to a request that some of the records in the case remain secret.
Attorneys for Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and two of his prosecutors filed a motion in federal court late Thursday saying documents the Wisconsin Club for Growth wants to keep secret are the most important ones that outline the reasons for the probe and explain why the activity being examined was illegal. The attorney for another investigator, Dean Nickel, filed similar objections Friday.
The secret investigation, known as a John Doe, began in August 2012 and focused on alleged illegal campaign fundraising, spending and coordination between conservative groups, Walker’s campaign and others during recall elections in 2011 and 2012.
The investigation has been a distraction for Walker as he runs for re-election against Democrat Mary Burke, a former state commerce secretary and Trek Bicycle Corp. executive. Walker is also considering a run for president in 2016.
U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa last week halted the investigation, saying that the free speech rights of the Wisconsin Club for Growth was being violated by the probe. Prosecutors have appealed that ruling and requested a stay in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Separately, Randa is considering whether to make public dozens of currently sealed documents encompassing hundreds of pages of material.
Both Wisconsin Club for Growth and prosecutors have agreed that most of the secret documents should be made public, given that so much information is already known about the investigation. The request to release the documents was first filed by five journalism groups.
But Wisconsin Club for Growth, in a proposed order it submitted to the court on Wednesday, said that all or some of 13 documents should remain secret. Those include affidavits and a variety of filings by attorneys.
It is “beyond irony” that Wisconsin Club for Growth wants to block access to the documents that “outline the investigation and detail the reasons why the plaintiffs’ conduct was subject to scrutiny,” prosecutors said in the motion. The public has a right to see the documents that are the basis of the case and the prosecutors’ defense in the case against them, they argued.
“The defendants have endured an unceasing barrage of inaccurate assertions and assumptions,” prosecutors’ attorney Sam Leib said in a statement. Releasing all of the documents will help the public “appreciate just how vital this investigation is to the principle of honest disclosure under campaign finance laws,” he said.
Nickel, in the objection filed by attorney Patrick Fiedler, said Wisconsin Club for Growth wants to keep hundreds of pages secret that “form the basis of the John Doe investigation.”
“Clearly, the public has a strong interest and First Amendment right to view these documents,” Fielder wrote.
The attorney for Wisconsin Club for Growth did not immediately respond to a request for comment.