Wisconsin Campaign Finance Probe Can
Continue: Appeals Court
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[May 08, 2014]
By Brendan O'Brien
MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - Wisconsin
investigators can continue a secret probe into possible campaign finance
law violations by conservative groups in the state, a U.S. appeals court
ruled on Wednesday.
The order stopped for now enforcement of a federal judge's ruling
that the 20-month investigation must be halted and records and
property seized by investigators returned to the Wisconsin Club for
Growth, the group that sued investigators.
U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Randa in Milwaukee on Tuesday had
said the club and its director were relieved of any and all duty to
cooperate with the secret investigation.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago said in
its order on Wednesday that Randa should not have entered a
preliminary injunction halting the "John Doe" probe because he knew
investigators were planning to appeal.
Investigators do not need to return the seized property or destroy
copies of information and other materials they obtained, the appeals
court panel said.
In Wisconsin, "John Doe" investigations allow prosecutors legal room
to call witnesses, request search warrants and offer immunity
without probable cause that a crime has been committed.
The club sued the investigators running the probe in February,
accusing them of violating freedom of speech, association and equal
protection rights by sidelining them from political activities
during the 2014 election cycle that includes Republican Governor
Scott Walker's re-election campaign.
The club asked the court to halt the investigations into its
activities that it said were politically driven, noting that they
were initiated by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm,
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The conservative lobby group said it had been targeted for alleged
unlawful "coordination" with Walker's recall election campaign in
Democrats forced Walker to defend his seat in a special election in
2012. Armed with a massive fundraising effort spurred by
conservatives inside and outside of Wisconsin, Walker won, becoming
the first U.S. governor to survive a recall.
(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Ken Wills)
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