Walker Dodges a Prosecutorial Bullet

As aficionados of that finely tuned instrument of verbal outrage and hilarious mockery, Esquire‘s Charlie Pierce, might well expect, he was not very pleased with the 4-2 decision of the Wisconsin Supreme Court quashing the “John Doe” investigation of Scott Walker’s prior campaigns for violation of the state’s campaign finance laws banning coordination between campaigns and “outside organizations,” in his case a bunch o’ conservative groups. Charlie had half-convinced me that Walker’s whole operation might be blown up by the investigation, which has actually been stalled since a lower court ruled against the special prosecutor running it some time ago.

But no: the majority opinion didn’t just deny the claims of illegal activity; it knocked down most of the state’s campaign finance laws and then engaged in blowing kisses at the accused rich and powerful conservative groups as heroes of the First Amendment. And that raises the rather uncomfortable background issue in the case: prosecutors had asked that one or all (hard to say, because this particular filing was sealed) of the four conservative judges that eventually decided the case recuse themselves because they were rather conspicuous beneficiaries of contributions from some of the outside groups at the center of the controversy, especially the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (the state chamber of commerce) and Wisconsin Club for Growth. They did not, though in contrast, one of the Court’s liberal judges did recuse herself because her son practices law with one of the attorneys in the case.

Here’s Charlie’s summation:

If you’re keeping score at home, the same organizations that were the subject of the criminal probe gave hundreds of thousands of neatly laundered dollars to the judges who ruled that those same organizations did nothing wrong on behalf of Scott Walker because fk you, that’s why. If this happened in Myanmar or Kazakhstan, we’d all be laughing at it. Instead, let’s once again congratulate Justice Anthony Kennedy for his immortal observation that: “…independent expenditures do not lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quo corruption.”

And Pierce bitterly concludes it looks like critics of Walker are going to have to hope his tendency to commit gaffes derails his campaign before the whole hep corporate and ideological world decides his trashing of the progressive legacy in Wisconsin was just the first step in a blessed career.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.