Wisconsin prosecutor backtracks: Scott Walker 'not a target' of investigation

Last week, a Wisconsin special prosecutor set the political world on fire when he alleged, and a variety of venues credulously repeated, that Gov. Scott Walker was at the center of a “criminal scheme” involving the illegal coordination of conservative groups and fundraisers when he faced a recall election in 2011-2012.

“The governor and his close confidants helped raise money and control spending through 12 conservative groups during the recall election campaigns, according to the prosecutors’ filings,” the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported on June 19.

Special prosecutor Francis Schmitz wrote that Walker was involved in “criminal violations of multiple elections laws, including violations of Filing a False Campaign Report or Statement and Conspiracy to File a False Campaign Report or Statement.”

Ed Morrissey wrote a compelling post outlining why these charges were flimsy, and it was irresponsible of a number of media outlets – including The Washington Post and The New York Times – to repeat them so uncritically.

“They’re deliberately misleading people by minimizing or outright omitting the fact that two different courts have looked at these charges and sneered at them,” Morrissey wrote.

Under pressure, Schmitz stood by the incendiary charge against Walker. On Thursday, however, he seemed to be changing his tune:

“Gov. Scott Walker has not been a target of the John Doe investigation into alleged illegal campaign finance coordination, an attorney for the special prosecutor overseeing the probe said Thursday,” The Wisconsin State Journal reported.

Randall Crocker, the lawyer for special prosecutor Francis Schmitz, noted the investigation has been halted, saying, “At the time the investigation was halted, Governor Walker was not a target of the investigation. At no time has he been served with a subpoena.”

Crocker clarified that Schmitz had included Walker’s name in a probe into documents relating to what he referred to again as a “criminal scheme.”

“While these documents outlined the prosecutor’s legal theory, they did not establish the existence of a crime; rather, they were arguments in support of further investigation to determine if criminal charges against any person or entity are warranted,” Crocker concluded. “Mr. Schmitz has made no conclusions as to whether there is sufficient evidence to charge anyone with a crime.”

The investigation into the John Doe scandal was halted last month by a federal judge. Prosecutors have appealed that ruling.A spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Democratic Party told the State Journal that they “agree with prosecutors that further investigation is warranted.”