Groups promoting open government are pleased that a John Doe investigation, apparently of campaign finances,  is still alive.
A state appeals court in Madison has unanimously rejected a request by unnamed petitioners to halt a John Doe probe that’s apparently looking into possible campaign violations during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections. Conservatives who say they're being investigated have shared details with the Wall Street Journal and other right-of-center news agencies.
Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign said it’s clear from documents the appeals court has ordered released that district attorneys from both major political parties wanted former federal prosecutor Francis Schmitz to lead the probe.
“All the claims or charges made by the apparent targets that this is nothing but a partisan witch-hunt is pretty seriously undercut,” said McCabe.
McCabe said it isn't clear from the new documents why it took Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen several months to decline a request from Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat, to lead the investigation.
McCabe says the John Doe probe now ought to run its course, although a judge overseeing the case recently halted subpoenas to conservative groups supporting Gov. Scott Walker during the recall. Walker, asked today in Milwaukee about the appeals court ruling, tried to distance himself from the effort to stop the probe.
“I and my campaign weren’t involved in that issue,” said Walker. “I don’t know what to read in it beyond that.”
Walker declined comment on suggestions that the conservative group Wisconsin Club for Growth is taking a more aggressive effort to stop this investigation after a previous John Doe probe in Milwaukee led to jail time for several Walker friends or associates.