A federal judge has ordered prosecutors to drop a secret John Doe probe into Republican campaign activities during Wisconsin’s recall elections.
Milwaukee Federal Judge Rudolph Randa ruled on Tuesday that one of the targets, the Wisconsin Club for Growth, had its free speech rights violated by prosecutors. The judge said the group and its treasurer found a way to circumvent campaign finance laws, and the move should be recognized as a way to promote political speech instead of restricting it.
Prosecutors have been looking for violations of the law which prohibit campaign coordination between candidates and outside groups. The Club for Growth said it was unfair that the probe only targeted conservatives, challenging the investigation in federal court earlier this year. The investigation centered on the recall contests in 2011 and 2012, which targeted Governor Scott Walker and multiple state Senators.
Judge Randa ordered the return of all evidence seized during the probe, plus the destruction of any materials gathered by prosecutors.
Special Prosecutor Francis Schmitz says he’ll need to consult with other prosecutors in the case, and his own attorney, before deciding on an appeal of the decision.