Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and two other district attorneys filed a motion with the state Supreme Court on Friday to intervene in the John Doe investigation into Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign.
The motion keeps alive for now the possibility that the Supreme Court’s decision to end the investigation could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The state court must still grant the motion to intervene.
The motion was filed under seal, like most other filings in the case. The other two district attorneys aren’t identified in online court records, but are likely Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne and Iowa County District Attorney Larry Nelson. That’s because two of the other five district attorneys who were once involved in the case, Columbia County District Attorney Jane Kohlwey and Dodge County District Attorney Kurt Klomberg — both Republicans — have decided not to intervene, according to the Associated Press. The other three district attorneys are Democrats.
The five district attorneys opened five separate John Does in 2013 looking at the same allegation — that Walker’s campaign coordinated with outside groups in contravention of campaign finance laws that require such coordination be reported as campaign contributions.
That decision came in response to evidence gathered by Chisholm in a previous John Doe into Walker’s Milwaukee County office that resulted in six convictions.
Chisholm, working with the Government Accountability Board, which was also investigating a related ethics complaint, initially asked then-Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican, to lead the investigation, but was turned down after a six-month review because of a potential conflict of interest.
The five investigations were combined into one John Doe investigation under special prosecutor Francis Schmitz, a former federal prosecutor who identified himself as a Republican.
Previously released court records show Kohlwey’s John Doe probe was targeting former Walker aide Kelly Rindfleisch, who was convicted of campaigning while working in Walker’s Milwaukee County executive office. Klomberg’s John Doe probe was targeting R.J. Johnson, who was identified in court records as a Walker campaign consultant who was also running Wisconsin Club for Growth.
Ozanne’s John Doe targeted former Walker chief of staff Keith Gilkes and Nelson’s John Doe targeted Wisconsin Club for Growth director Eric O’Keefe, who has been the most active in challenging the John Doe investigation on the grounds that its underlying legal theory violated his First Amendment free speech rights.
The state Supreme Court sided with that view in its July decision and again in denying Schmitz’s request that their decision be reconsidered. In its latest ruling, the court ruled that Schmitz was illegally appointed special prosecutor and didn’t have legal standing to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the same 4-1 ruling, the court acknowledged removing Schmitz from the case posed a problem, and suggested that one of the five original district attorneys could intervene. They later issued a ruling requiring a decision on intervention be made by Friday.
Attorney General Brad Schimel declined to intervene in the case at the request of one of the targets of the investigation earlier this month. He said it was unlikely the U.S. Supreme Court would take up the case, and if it did even less likely it would overrule the state court.