Stay current on changes and developments in corporate law with a wide variety of resources and tools.
Oct. 3 — The U.S. Supreme Court won't review a state court ruling that shut down an investigation of possible illegal campaign coordination between Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) and conservative advocacy organizations ( Chisholm v. Two Unnamed Petitioners, U.S., No. 15-1416, cert. denied 10/3/16 ).
The high court's Oct. 3 refusal to intervene in the case involving the “John Doe” probe by state prosecutors came despite newly revealed documents reported by The Guardian newspaper indicating that Walker participated in a fundraising scheme involving undisclosed contributions during a 2012 recall election.
Supporters of stronger campaign finance regulation had hoped the Supreme Court would grant a petition for certiorari filed by a group of Wisconsin district attorneys, who objected to a 4-2 ruling in 2015 by the Wisconsin Supreme Court (10 WCR 1033, 12/11/15). The prosecutors argued the state court's ruling on coordination was incorrect and that some of the state court justices should have been recused from the case (11 WCR 20, 1/8/16).
Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel (R) urged the U.S. Supreme Court to let the state court ruling stand, arguing that it reflected Wisconsin's state law on coordination and that the state court justices who received support from conservative groups were allowed to participate in deciding the case.
Some observers said the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court may have been a key factor in its decision not to take on the Wisconsin case. Following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February, the court is now equally divided between four justices that have supported rolling back campaign finance rules and four who have indicated they believe strong rules are needed.
“Given the split on the U.S. Supreme Court, it is perhaps not surprising that the justices declined to wade into this politically charged, highly complex case that raises difficult legal issues that may divide the court,” Brendan Fischer, associate counsel for the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, said in a statement.
Fischer's organization supports strong campaign finance rules. He said it was important to recognize the Supreme Court action did not condone Walker's activities in secretly telling out-of-state donors, including corporations, that they could support the governor's campaign by secretly giving to nonprofits like the Wisconsin Club for Growth. After winning reelection, Walker signed legislation advancing the interests of the secret donors, Fischer said.
“Anyone who looks at the evidence in this case, recently published by The Guardian, would come to the conclusion that this is not how our political system should work,” he said. “What this tells us is that we need a functioning Supreme Court that can clarify and improve its current jurisprudence on the role of money in politics.”
Jay Heck, director of the pro-regulation Common Cause Wisconsin, said the issues behind the Wisconsin case are still relevant and that the newly revealed documents raised additional questions about Walker's possibly illegal fundraising activity. Heck said this new information merits beginning a new investigation by state prosecutors.
On the other hand, Republicans in Wisconsin who criticized the Walker probe hailed the state supreme court for finally shutting down the campaign finance probe. Republican state Rep. David Craig said the court's action ended “an unfortunate chapter of government chilling free speech in Wisconsin.”
Craig called for creation of a special committee in the state Legislature to determine “if abusive behavior was engaged in by those involved in this investigation and to determine whether those charged with the public trust have acted maliciously by intentionally leaking sealed materials in violation of state policy.”
Kurt R. Bauer, president of the nonprofit Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, said in a statement that, with the U.S. Supreme Court's denial of review, prosecutors pursuing the John Doe probe had been “rejected at every step of the legal process and justice has prevailed.”
“The First Amendment remains a vital part of our democracy in Wisconsin and our nation and people shouldn't face jail time for speaking out on issues,” Bauer said. “Businesses need to have the right to stand up to the government to tell the people about how taxes and regulations affect the daily lives of our citizens. WMC has taken a strong stand on free speech rights for our members and all businesses and will continue to exercise our free speech rights without government harassment in the future.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at email@example.com
Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)