The Guardian US, the U.S. edition of the British newspaper, has done a tremendous public service by obtaining and publishing nearly 1,500 pages of documents compiled during the John Doe probe into whether Scott Walker’s campaign violated the law during the 2011-12 recall elections — documents which, if the Wisconsin Supreme Court had had its way, would have long ago been destroyed.
The state’s high court shut down the probe in 2015, and at the time called for all the documents to be destroyed, a decision that, thankfully, it later modified.
The Guardian’s report reveals a stunning level of collaboration between Walker, his recall election campaign, and the special-interest organization known as the Wisconsin Club for Growth in soliciting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the rich and powerful to give Walker a huge money advantage over his Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. The Club for Growth also supported other Republican candidates in the spate of recall elections occurring around that time.
Walker counseled these donors to send their money to the supposedly independent, tax-exempt group, making it clear that then their identities wouldn’t have to be reported.
The governor and his people still contend that they did nothing illegal, but the documents, which include a revelation that a lead paint manufacturer got special legal protection after pouring $750,000 into the Club for Growth, show just how corrupt Wisconsin government has become under this governor and his cabal.
The Guardian’s disclosures also reveal how closely state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser’s re-election campaign was linked with the Scott Walker donors. In one of the documents, Walker wrote to Republican strategist Karl Rove, “Club for Growth-Wisconsin was the key to retaining Justice Prosser.”
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The leaked John Doe documents make it even more clear that Prosser should have recused himself from participating in the court’s decision to kill the John Doe probe and declare that the state’s longstanding anti-coordination campaign laws were unconstitutional.
We can now understand why the state’s high court was originally hellbent on destroying those John Doe documents.
Walker’s reign as governor has been one questionable edge-of-the-law maneuver after the other. But because his party holds sway over not just the Legislature, but now also has the state’s high court stacked with his enablers, he and his cohorts have carte blanche to do as they please.
It underscores just how accurate is the old British axiom: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Too bad we have to witness that truth right here in Wisconsin.