State election officials and a conservative group targeted by a John Doe investigation have settled a lawsuit related to the probe.
The lawsuit filed by the Club for Growth in Waukesha County argued the Government Accountability Board overstepped its authority by participating in the investigation, which was looking into whether conservative groups illegally coordinated with Governor Scott Walker’s campaign during the 2012 recall election. The investigation was ended by the state Supreme Court earlier this year, which found the activity did not violate state law.
Under the settlement, the Club for Growth will drop its lawsuit and the GAB will no longer fund or assist with investigations that violate its statutory authority.
In a statement, CFG attorney Edward Greim said “The GAB systematically violated its enabling statute, wielding its power of the purse and using its own embedded staff to influence the criminal prosecutors who were presented as the face of John Doe II to the courts. After nearly 20 months of legal proceedings, we are pleased the GAB has admitted its role in the John Doe investigation and agreed not to violate the law in the future.”
The GAB maintains the agreement contains no admission of wrongdoing, and that the settlement would not have prevented a parallel civil investigation that was going on along with the John Doe. Agency director Kevin Kennedy also released a statement, saying “this agreement vindicates the Board’s involvement in the investigation. More importantly, it ends this frivolous assault on the actions of the agency and stops the drain on taxpayer funds used to defend this action.”
The agreement comes just a day after the governor signed legislation that will replace the GAB next year with separate ethics and elections commissions. Greims indicated it’s their belief the settlement will apply to any investigations considered by those panels as well.