MADISON, Wis. (AP) – No conclusions have been made on whether there’s enough evidence to charge Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker or anyone else with a crime, an attorney for the special prosecutor leading an investigation into alleged campaign law violations said Thursday.
A legal filing written by special prosecutor Francis Schmitz in December but made public last week accused the Republican governor and possible 2016 presidential candidate of being part of a nationwide “criminal scheme.”
“While these documents outlined the prosecutor’s legal theory, they did not establish the existence of a crime,” attorney Randall Crocker said in a statement released Thursday. “Rather, they were arguments in support of further investigation to determine if criminal charges against any person or entity are warranted.”
Crocker said that Walker, who is seeking re-election this year, was not a target of the probe and he has not been subpoenaed. He did not address whether Walker’s campaign was targeted.
Walker said following a campaign stop Thursday that the statement “is just one more step in setting the record straight.” Walker said his legal team did not ask Crocker to issue the statement, and said he is not in negotiations with prosecutors to settle the investigation.
A federal judge in May put the investigation into activity during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections on hold. Prosecutors have appealed that decision. Walker also said Thursday it was “highly probable” opponents of the investigation would continue to win in court, given recent victories before state and federal judges.
Prosecutors in their court filings detailed what they said was an illegal scheme by Walker, his campaign and his top two advisers to evade state elections laws and illegally raise money and coordinate with independent conservative groups.
“The scope of the criminal scheme under investigation is expansive,” Schmitz wrote in the December court filing opposing motions to quash subpoenas. His filing also included an email in which Walker boasted to Republican operative Karl Rove about Walker’s top adviser taking a lead role in coordinating the effort. Johnson was also the top adviser for conservative group Wisconsin Club for Growth.
Regardless, Democratic challenger Mary Burke launched a new television ad Thursday criticizing Walker over the investigation just days after she said she would not make the accusations part of her campaign.
“I’m going to focus on getting my message out to the people of Wisconsin,” Burke said in an interview with WISN-TV that was taped on June 20. “The type of governor I’d be, what I believe in, how I’m going to move Wisconsin’s economy forward – so it’s not going to be a focus of my campaign.”
Her new 30-second ad, which was airing in the Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Wausau, and La Crosse markets, includes footage of television anchors talking about the allegations as well as a federal economic report released last week that showed Wisconsin ranked 37th in new job creation in 2013.
Walker’s campaign manager called on Burke to take down the ad, calling it a slanderous repetition of baseless accusations. Burke refused.
Walker said all the questions about the investigation are a distraction.
“We think the voters deserve to have a debate about real issues,” he said.
Burke is a former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive and was Commerce secretary under former governor Doyle for nearly three years. Walker’s campaign continues to tie Burke to Doyle’s policies, including tax increases and job losses that occurred during the Great Recession.
She is widely viewed as the front runner for the Democratic nomination, but she does face a challenge from State Rep. Brett Hulsey, who is mounting a longshot campaign. Walker is unchallenged.