Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign reported spending more than $320,000 in legal fees on a campaign finance report filed Monday, bringing the total spent since 2012 to more than $1 million.
The report, which covers the first six months of this year, doesn’t specify what the money was spent on. But Walker’s campaign has been entangled in a John Doe investigation into possible illegal coordination among conservative groups and Republican political campaigns during the 2012 recall election.
That investigation was put on hold in early May by a federal judge, though prosecutors have appealed the decision.
The latest report shows Walker’s campaign paid $212,434 to Chicago-based Sidley Austin LLP. The firm’s website says it handles “all types of legal matters, from complex transactions to ‘bet the company’ litigation to cutting-edge regulatory issues.”
The campaign paid $83,079 to Biskupic & Jacobs LLC in Mequon. Former federal prosecutor Steven Biskupic has filed motions in court cases related to the John Doe probe.
The report also shows Walker’s campaign paid $25,000 to Milwaukee-based criminal defense lawyer Michael Steinle. Walker previously used a legal defense fund set up in 2012 to pay Steinle, Sidley Austin and Madison-based Lind Weininger LLC, which received $100 from Walker’s campaign during the past six months.
The legal defense fund paid out a total of about $450,000 before it closed in March 2013, shortly after Milwaukee County prosecutors closed an earlier John Doe probe that resulted in six convictions of Walker’s Milwaukee County aides and their associates. Walker was not charged with any wrongdoing in that probe.
Walker’s campaign disclosed another $300,000 in legal fees in previous campaign finance reports. The Government Accountability Board, the state’s nonpartisan elections agency, said earlier this year that politicians can use campaign funds to pay legal fees incurred when they are under civil or criminal investigation. They must use a separate criminal defense fund once an investigation becomes “purely a criminal one.”
Asked for comment about the expenses, Walker campaign spokeswoman Alleigh Marre said, “The campaign relies on these firms for a variety of legal services.”
Democratic Party of Wisconsin spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff called the amount of money the campaign has spent on legal fees “completely stunning.”
“The bipartisan (John Doe) investigation isn’t over yet, and we have every reason to believe Walker will spend tens of thousands more, but the staggering amount already spent should be a huge concern for every Wisconsinite who cares about good government,” Baldauff said.