More than a month after documents from a now-ended secret investigation targeting Governor Scott Walker’s campaign and conservative groups were leaked, Assembly Democrats are calling on the state’s newly formed Ethics Commission to open its own review of the case.
The Guardian U.S. released court documents last month from a John Doe investigation that was looking into whether the Walker’s campaign and advocacy groups illegally coordinated their activities during a recall attempt targeting the governor. The publication also raised questions about donations from business owners, who later benefitted from legislation passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature.
“The magnitude of these disclosures simply cannot go uninvestigated,” Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) argued during a press conference at the capitol Wednesday. “It is essential, with the explosive nature of what we learned in those documents, that there’s an investigation that takes place.”
The state Supreme Court halted the John Doe more than a year ago, ruling that no laws had been broken because the advocacy groups the campaign was working with were not engaged in direct advocacy – calling on voters to support or reject a particular candidate. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month declined to review that decision. Republicans have also maintained that there was nothing illegal about the work being done.
Democrats have previously called on the Dane County district attorney to investigate the issues raised by the leaked documents, but Barca said they have not yet received a response to that request.
Assembly Democrats sent letter to the Ethics Commission this week asking the partisan-appointed panel to open its own investigation. Under changes made in state law by Republicans, Rep. Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire) said it appears to be the only option left open to them. “This is the only system for ethics complaints left to us at this time…we’re calling on them to investigate this corruption.”
A spokesman for the Ethics Commission said the request was received, but declined further comment.