MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Three targets of a secret investigation into possible illegal coordination between Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and conservative interest groups have asked a federal appeals court not to release sealed documents pertaining to the case.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals planned to make 34 documents public Tuesday. Wisconsin Club for Growth filed a motion on Monday asking the court to keep nine documents sealed. The motion followed a request late Friday by two unnamed parties asking the court not to release any of the 34 documents.
A coalition of media and open government advocates is pushing for the release of the documents. The coalition’s attorney, Theodore Boutrous Jr., said in an email Monday morning that he planned to oppose the motions and the documents should be in the public domain. He hadn’t filed any briefs and the 7th Circuit hadn’t responded to the motions by midafternoon.
A group of prosecutors has been conducting a so-called John Doe investigation, in which information is kept secret, into whether Walker’s 2012 recall campaign illegally coordinated advertising and fundraising efforts with conservative groups that backed him.
One of the groups, Wisconsin Club for Growth, has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to halt the probe, saying it infringes on its free speech rights. The group argues that it is legal for outside groups to coordinate with candidates on issue-based political ads and that the prosecutors are liberals bent on trashing conservatives.
U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa sided with the group in May, issuing an order that put the investigation on hold. The prosecutors have asked the 7th Circuit court in Chicago to reverse that decision.
Wisconsin Club for Growth argued in its motion Monday that the documents contain four affidavits packed with personal information, including names, addresses, private emails and bank accounts, that prosecutors used to justify searches and issuing subpoenas. The group argued that releasing them would reveal its political affiliations, internal strategies and tactics, subject its associates to threats and harassment and chill the flow of internal ideas.
The organization maintained, too, that five other documents contain similar sensitive information as well as factual background and legal arguments from prosecutors. The group asked the court to redact the personal data before releasing those documents.
The two unnamed parties, for their part, said in their motion that they, too, are targets of the investigation. They argue in their motion that they’re concerned about their privacy and reputations and the court should respect the John Doe’s secrecy. Unsealing the documents now would undermine the appeal and “would not reflect the orderly and reasoned administration of justice,” the parties argued.