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John Doe Decision "Opens the Money Floodgates"

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015   

MADISON, Wis. – The 4-to-3 ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court to end the 2012 John Doe probe into Governor Scott Walker's recall election campaign financing will open the doors to secret outside money in Wisconsin elections, says Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin.

Heck says the court's decision effectively renders contribution limits "meaningless" in the state, and will allow outside groups to influence elections.

"We have currently spending limits of $10,000 on the amount of contribution you can give to a gubernatorial campaign, and $1,000 to a state Senate campaign," he says. "Those are meaningless now if your campaign can coordinate with outside groups who have no limits on the amount of money they can spend."

Supporters of the decision say the John Doe probe was politically motivated, and note that in the three years the case has been active, no arrests have been made. The prosecutors who initiated the probe – from both political parties – alleged that Walker's recall election team broke state election laws by working in concert with outside dark money groups to coordinate campaign spending.

Heck says four of the seven justices of the court were beneficiaries of dark money spent on their behalf during their election campaigns by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, and the Wisconsin Club for Growth. Both of those organizations were sources of funds at the core of the John Doe probe. Heck calls the decision to end the probe into campaign money coordination "unprecedented."

"That hasn't been permitted by any federal court or state court in the country," he says. "This is the first time this has happened, and it's something that needs to be appealed to the United States Supreme Court. Obviously we'll look into the possibilities of that happening."

Because the investigation has been halted, Heck says Wisconsinites and the rest of the nation will never know if Governor Walker and his campaign engaged in unlawful activity. He says the ruling means outside election money will flow into the Badger State.

"We probably are now going to see an even greater flood of secret outside money coming into Wisconsin," he says. "Undermining our elections, corrupting our public officials and seizing control of our state government."


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