Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Why Walker Has Split With Conservatives

He’s at odds with the right-wing and Wall Street Journal over John Doe probe. But why?

By - May 30th, 2014 12:41 pm
Gov. Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker

Suddenly, pigs can fly and conservatives are angry at Gov. Scott Walker. Walker, the darling of the right-wing nationally, and likely contender for the Republican presidential nomination, was blasted in a Tuesday editorial by the Wall Street Journal, which essential accused Walker of putting his personal ambitions above moral principles. “Sounds like Mr. Walker has to decide whose side he’s on — his own, or the larger principles he claims to represent,” the editorial declared.

The editorial claimed that Steven Biskupic, the attorney representing Walker’s compaign committee, has been negotiating with Francis Schmitz, special prosecutor in the John Doe probe, to reach some kind of compromise to settle the case. The investigation has for nearly two years been looking into potentially illegal coordination between Walker’s campaign and third party conservative advocacy groups like the Wisconsin Club for Growth.

Walker hasn’t denied these negotiations have taken place. And they have an obvious benefit for him, putting the probe — and its endless distractions — behind him, as he works to get reelected governor in a race that’s currently a statistical tie. But the conservative third party groups, led by Erik O’Keefe, head of the Wisconsin Club for Growth, don’t want a settlement to this case. O’Keefe hired a top Washington, D.C. attorney, David Rifkin, to sue Schmitz and all the prosecutors involved in the John Doe probe, accusing them of violating the civil rights of those under investigation. And O’Keefe and his fellow conservatives clearly believe they have a strong case — and have told this to the Wall Street Journal.

“Based on the evidence and legal judgements we’ve seen, the prosecutors should be on the defensive, not Mr. Walker,” the WSJ editorial noted.

As Rivkin’s statement to the media put it, while the Wisconsin Club for Growth “fights for its First Amendment rights to speak out on the issue, the Walker campaign apparently seeks to negotiate a settlement with the prosecutors that will keep the issue out of the spotlight.”

Yet O’Keefe and his Club for Growth are among a group of conservative advocacy groups that spent many millions to make sure Walker survived the recall election. O’Keefe hung out with Walker in New York City when the governor was raising money for this election. So what in the world caused a split so bad that O’Keefe and company had to call in the Wall Street Journal to warn Walker to back off?

The answer revolves around O’Keefe, a smart, wealthy, tactically sophisticated activist who has an agenda shared by the Koch Brothers, to change the laws on campaign finance. Once again, Wisconsin is ground zero for a national, partisan battle that could reverberate across the land. But in this case there are also divisions among Republicans, who are split on whether to support Walker or O’Keefe.

The connections between O’Keefe and the Koch brothers, as I’ve previously written, go back to at least 1979, when David Koch decided to run for vice-president on the Libertarian ticket (with Ed Clark as the presidential candidate). O’Keefe worked full-time in the Libertarian presidential campaign, rising to the National Field Coordinator. In 1980, he was elected National Director of the Libertarian Party. “Early in his libertarian days, O’Keefe became friendly with the Koch brothers, with whom he has joined in many battles,” as a story in the Washington Post recounted.

The election effort was a formative learning experience for the Koch Brothers, as a recent story in the New York Times reported. But within a few years, both Koch and O’Keefe would leave the Libertarian Party and became involved in building a powerful network of political non-profits that are exempt from most campaign reporting requirements and contribution limits.

Koch was an avowed opponent of the post-Watergate reforms that created these limitations, as the Times reported. The law “makes my blood boil,” Koch wrote in a letter to Libertarian Party members.

O’Keefe has been “a chief organizer of several independent conservative groups that are raising millions nationwide,” the Post story noted. “From his rural home west of Madison [in Spring Green], O’Keefe is chairman of the Sam Adams Alliance, which funds groups that train tea party activists. He is also chairman of the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which has spent $1 million on TV ads to support Walker’s effort to make state workers “pay their fair share.” And he is co-founder of the Campaign for Primary Accountability, a new super PAC that is spending millions on ads attacking incumbent members of Congress.”

O’Keefe became a master of using these groups to attack incumbent politicians of both parties, but mostly Democrats. By law, these groups need not disclose the names of donors, because they are not engaged in trying to elect candidates. But O’Keefe would time the ads to run during campaigns and attack certain candidates, though without explicitly urging people to vote any particular way. Under the law this was allowed but the groups were barred from coordinating with the campaign committees of any candidates.

But O’Keefe has argued that such coordination should be allowed, since these groups are not technically involved in electioneering. And during the 2012 recall election, O’Keefe was friendly with Walker and hired longtime Republican operative R.J. Johnson as a consultant for the Wisconsin Club for Growth, even as Johnson served as an advisor to Walker’s campaign. These connections raised suspicions that there has been coordination between the campaign and the third party group, which would be illegal, and probably helped trigger the John Doe investigation launched by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, who brought on Schmitz as lead prosecutor.

The Doe probe was quite aggressive in its investigation of conservative advocacy groups who supported Walker’s recall election, and O’Keefe is said to be outraged by the techniques used. For confirmation, you need only check the stories of the conservative Wisconsin Reporter, the non-profit newspaper whose funding comes from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which in turn got much of its funding from the Sam Adams Alliance which O’Keefe still runs. To date the newspaper has done no less than 73 stories on “Wisconsin’s Secret War” which have condemned the “paramilitary style pre-dawn raids” on conservatives by the Doe investigators; they have made life for O’Keefe and other conservatives “a living hell,” the paper has charged.

As for Walker’s attempt to negotiate a settlement with Schmitz, it’s “a deal with the devil,” the paper complains.

O’Keefe seems to want to punish the prosecutors for what he sees as a violation of the civil rights and freedom of speech of the conservative groups. His federal lawsuit has targeted the prosecutors both professionally and personally, and his lawyer David Rivkin told Charlie Sykes he intends to squeeze the prosecutors “like grapes.”  O’Keefe and conservatives have also flirted with launching a recall effort against Chisholm, as I’ve reported.

Meanwhile, Federal Judge Rudolph Randa has made a ruling that essentially accepted O’Keefe’s argument that any coordination between third party groups and the Walker campaign or any campaign is legal. This would legalize the use of unlimited “dark money” for any elections, and effectively end all restrictions on compaign donations. For O’Keefe, the Koch brothers, and the Wall Street Journal, this is exactly the ruling they hoped for, which could go all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. Given the current make-up of the court, it wouldn’t be a shock if they agreed with Randa.

Considering these huge stakes, Walker’s concern about putting the Doe probe behind him is small potatoes. Walker’s campaign committee has released a statement saying they are not parties in O’Keefe’s federal lawsuit and thus cannot negotiate any settlement to it. But Walker and his campaign haven’t addressed whether they are attempting, through Biskupic, to negotiate a settlement to the Doe probe. And O’Keefe clearly doesn’t want that, because it might make his lawsuit moot, and because it might frustrate his goal of crushing the prosecutors.

Indeed, O’Keefe has just upped the ante, launching a suit against the state Government Accountability Board for “spending illegally on the secret John Doe probe and violating his rights under state law.”

By now, both Walker and the Doe prosecutors have every incentive to end the probe. O’Keefe’s legal blitzkrieg is probably scaring the bejesus out of the prosecutors, while making it difficult for a governor to talk about anything but John Doe.

Short Take

Newspaper accounts give the impression that it was Biskupic who approached Schmitz about settling the Doe probe. The two both worked in the Milwaukee U.S. Attorney’s office and were both on short list for the job of U.S. Attorney. (President George W. Bush ultimately selected Biskupic.)

I have heard a counter-theory that it was Schmitz who approached Biskupic about a settlement. When I asked Biskupic via email whether that is what happened, he replied, “Thanks, but I have no comment.”

Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

41 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Why Walker Has Split With Conservatives”

  1. Urban says:

    Hear that? It’s the sound of sphincters tightening all over Corruptionland. There’s no “deal” without talking, even more GOP operatives are headed for convictions, and every half-awake voter in Wisconsin will go to the polls this fall with the certain knowledge that Scott Walker is, and always was, crooked.

  2. Curious says:

    Did Eric O’Keefe send armed thugs to the home of John Chisholm to engage in a para-military style predawn raid? Did he terrorize children? Prevent them from calling their attorneys? Forcibly remove all electronic equipment, including the possessions of family members?

    I didn’t think so.

  3. PMD says:

    Was the para-military style predawn raid like Red Dawn (the original)? Camouflage uniforms and assault rifles and what not? Did the armed thugs get pushy and just grab people’s iPhones? Or did they ask for them nicely? Hopefully all the poor victims of Chisholm and the armed thugs are seeking PTSD counseling.

  4. crispinpierce says:

    An excellent, clearly-written analysis of a complex turn of events. It is very disappointing that Mr. Walker and powerful republicans donors’ machinations are so self-centered and obscuring of public transparency.

  5. Bruce Thompson says:

    When I read the Wall Street Journal editorial, I was reminded of the famous scene in The Godfather, where the movie studio head finds his favorite horse’s head in his bed.

  6. janese says:

    when are people going to wake up and realize that the money are gaining more control than the people….your vote will no longer count..wake up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Michael says:

    I find it funny when people who support militarizing the police are shocked (shocked!) when the police use the same tactics on them as everyone else.

    Then again O’Keefe is white.

  8. Michael says:

    It looks like the Club for Growth and Governor Walker’s interest are not aligned. Does this mean we now are at risk of corruption, according to Judge Randa? If Walker does not make a deal and the Club runs coordinated ads for him next election does that make it a quid-pro-quo arrangement?

    “O‘Keefe and the Club obviously agree with Governor Walker‘s policies, but coordinated ads in favor of those policies carry no risk of corruption because the Club‘s interests are already aligned with Walker and other conservative politicians,”

  9. David Blaska says:

    Wisconsin Reporter has condemned the “paramilitary style pre-dawn raids” against conservative activists. Will you?

  10. PMD says:

    Yes we all must follow the lead of the prestigious and peerless Wisconsin Reporter. They would never use overheated, hysterical rhetoric like “paramilitary style pre-dawn raids.”

  11. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Chisholm is a politcal hack. Heard that he was after Walker and company to give them a deal so that they could get out of the John Doe without looking like complete idiots and jerk. Walker turned down the deal they wanted. Everyone should wait till the facts are in before they jump off cliff.

  12. PMD says:

    “Everyone should wait till the facts are in before they jump off cliff.”

    Good advice. It’s best to wait for the facts to come out and avoid saying stuff like “I heard something” without mentioning a source.

  13. Frank says:

    Curious as to what actually constitutes a “paramilitary style pre-dawn raid,” I googled it. The only references I found were to the John Doe searches themselves (the phrase first appears on a group of websites with names that actually sound sort of paramilitary, like Watchdog, and references to these websites) and a raid of a suspected drug dealer who was executed in a PMSPDR somewhere in Columbia (South America, I think, not South Carolina). Somebody call the hyperbole police so they can hose down the overheated keyboards on the right.

  14. David Blaska says:

    Are we over-parsing the term “paramilitary”? Is that your escape hatch? Okee dokey. Let’s lose that word. Are you O.K. with pre-dawn raids conducted by armed deputies that light up the outside of the house in bright lights, seize computers and files, and forbid the searched from complaining about it to others? All in order to “pursue a theory” that Group A of like-minded individuals communicated with Group B of like-minded individuals. Not to interdict an imminent heroin delivery; not to rescue kidnapped school girls; but to assure that there was no coordination (a.k.a.: freedom of association) between citizens during an election. Google that!

  15. Frank says:

    Okey dokey, as long as they had a valid search warrant. I’d note, though, that deputies are required to wear sidearms. They don’t just wear them for pre-dawn search warrant raids. Lights seem likes pretty good way of avoiding falls during the pre-dawn hours. Good thinking when you are carrying guns. BUT, if you are saying that groups A and B were in fact coordinating efforts, then the only real question is whether or not that is legal. Google won’t help here. I’m interested in seeing what the courts decide and think it would be a shame if the prosecutors, Walker or anyone else short-circuits a decision.

  16. Orville Seymer says:

    I have spoken to one of the people who was a target of the pre dawn raids a and they told me that prior to the raid the had cooperated fully with the prosecutors going as far as to voluntarily turning over their

    Of course that was not good enough for the prosecutors because they showed up on their doorstep with a battering ram ready to bust the door down.

    I’m not sure I’m still in America.

  17. Jake formerly of the Lp says:

    Frank- WHAAA-ska is paid to lie for his wingnut welfare check. That’s what that guy’s about.

    And to have WHAAAA-ska quote the Wisconsin Distorter is a new depth of lame (which is saying something with that clown). It’s well-documented that the Distorter gets its funding from the same Koch-related sources as Wisconsin Club for Growth, so this is how they score all of these “inside stories” Bruce, on the other hand, has to stick with the facts to get his check.

    Of course, I wouldn’t say is “splitting with conservatives”, as much as he is trying to save his own skin and doesn’t care about the Club for Growth’s bigger goal of removing all campaign finance and disclosure laws. Because apparently hiding who you are and what you stand for is the essence of “FREEDUMMMM!”

  18. David Blaska says:

    “WHAAA-ska,” “wing-nut,” “Koch-related sources …” Mr. Murphy, shouldn’t commenters be at least age 14 before posting here?

  19. PMD says:

    It’s amusing to see how “paramilitary raid” turned into deputies with warrants and flashlights seizing computers and files.

  20. David Blaska says:

    “Amusing”? Do you think the Founders found unreasonable search and seizure amusing? When the supposed crime was … what? Illegal speech? (btw: Flashlights? Try high-powered halogen lights.) Wonder if PMD would be chuckling if the NAACP was victim of the speech police.

  21. PMD says:

    NAACP? That’s random. And they were placed under special, extra scrutiny by the IRS during George W. Bush’s administration. Just FYI. And I love how conservatives resort to “the Founders,” like a tic or a reflex, and like they are experts on the Founding Fathers and everything they believed & stood for. When in doubt, just throw out the Founders! Who can offer a rebuttal when one plays the Founders card?

    Yes, it is amusing because first you used overheated, hysterical rhetoric: Paramilitary Raid! Then it was deputies in the morning with flashlights. Quite a big difference there. But the overheated rhetoric is just par for the course with right-wingers. See also above comment: “I don’t even know if this is still America!”

  22. Chris Byhre says:

    PMD, since you love to point out over heated rhetoric, you must be equally frustrated with the frothing on your side and the lefty knee jerk reaction to blame everything on Walker, Bush, the Koch brothers or ALEC. Talk about tics, there are tons of lefties who should post under the name OCD, for their compulsive obsession with Walker and the Koch brothers. The founders card term is a new one, and can not even come close to the race card or war on women card that lefties trot out ad nauseum. Many who share your viewpoints come from the Mike Tate school of polictical rhetoric. You seem to have forgotten this.

  23. PMD says:

    I love how many people who post here talk about “sides.” I don’t look at these discussions as a war, but hey, too each their own. The founders card is hardly new. Maybe to someone new to political discussions, but that goes way back.

    And of course the left utilizes overheated political rhetoric. Feel better?

  24. Chris Byhre says:

    There are ‘sides’ to each discussion, I did not say this was a war. You do understand that don’t you? I am glad you were able to admit that the left utilizes overheated political rhetoric, it had to be tough. Your ability to come to terms with this is healthy for you and will be a benefit to you in the future. Therefore yes, it makes me feel better.

  25. PMD says:

    Yes there are sides, but some people here are always saying “your side,” as if they know everything about a person and all of their beliefs because of a single comment on the Internet, and that person must be on the “other side” because of that one comment. And of course it wasn’t tough. Why would it have been? Only a total fool thinks it’s just liberals or conservatives that play political games and utilize overheated rhetoric.

  26. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Milwaukee is the top ten most violent, shootings daily cause Flynn/Barrett/Chisholm cannot find any answers amongst all of the plans put in place by other cities that have been successful, but they have money and time to play political hack with conservatives. They are all in on this stupidity. They play CYA all day.

  27. PMD says:

    Your ability to take any story and revert it back to violence in Milwaukee, even when it has nothing to do with the subject at hand, is truly special WCD.

    How is Flynn a part of the John Doe? Was he part of the team using flashlights while seizing computers and files?

  28. Dawns Early Light says:

    Come now Mr. Blaska – we had at least 3 republican judges and 3 republican DAs who came from 4 counties ( may be off by one or so ) who approved these raids. Mr. Blaska – do you think Chisholm yielded his God like persuasive powers to bully this bipartisan group of DAs and judges to convince the likes of Clarke to raid these homes with the utmost terror. That Chisholm – he must have special powers to do all that convincing. Such a powerful man he is. BTW Dave – I enjoyed watching you and Ross go at it . Though it appeared Ross got the best of you but that’s just my opinion.

  29. David Blaska says:

    Republican, Democrat, or Whig is not the point. It is an assault on free speech! Yes, there is plenty of shame to go around. Now I want you to come out from behind the bushes. Do you approve of raiding private homes and seizing computers because Group of Citizens A may have spoken with Group of Citizens B and Candidate C? BTW: my example of the police raiding the NAACP was not “random,” PMD. It comes under the category of “history.” But you have made it abundantly clear where you stand on free speech.

  30. Dawn's Early Light says:

    DAVE DAVE DAVE – yes I do approve of raids on homes where crimes have been committed against the state. There was rock solid evidence that collusion,collaboration – whatever you want to call it happened between groups that were disallowed from doing so. These groups expressed plenty of free speech – what did they spend on Walker in displaying their free speech? $8 million Dave? This is white collar crime Dave – this is how it’s done. Dave – I didn’t hear you speaking up when protestors were being denied their free speech did I now. In fact you condemned it. Only when it’s two right wing hacks groups who were caught red handed do you speak up – hmm Dave? And Dave – do you support Walker telling a little white lie himself about not making a deal with the federal lawsuit when we all knew it was the state lawsuit we were talking about. Free speech lies Dave? We have laws Dave – are you on the side of the law or not? Whose side are you on Dave – the former public sector worker.

  31. David Blaska says:

    “Crimes against the state!” Crimes have committed “AGAINST THE STATE!” Here we believed in Abe Lincoln’s “By the People, For the People.” Citizens, speaking amongst themselves. But Dawn of a Totalitarian Day says if the State “disallows” groups from “collaborating” (i.e. speaking to each other and working together) then bring down the Hammer of The State! I’m on the side of freedom, Dawn. Whose side, you?

  32. Dawn's Early Light says:

    Silly Dave – you equate “talking to one another” with corroboration, cooperation, coordination, cullusion among politcal groups and candidates. What we have here Dave is laws that were broken and Dave – you are seriously fooling yourself if you think their talking is some fireside chat over a few beers. Dave – may I suggest a reading of current law regarding this very topic. You are minimizing a very serious crime against the state. Yes Dave – it’s the state – we the people are the state. Walkerstan -AKA the State of Wisconsin has done more harm to free speech by arresting protestors than any John Doe has demonstrated. Perhaps Dave you should take a look at your party led by Walker who considered agent prevacateurs to disrupt free speech. Hmm Dave? It must be hard defending your Walker. It’s obvious that you spend some sleepless nights twisting and turning about this. The darkness below your eyes is revealing.

  33. David Blaska says:

    Of course they were cooperating, coordinating, and “colluding”! They weren’t talking about Kim Kardashian! They were talking about issues that matter to them. They were talking about the future of our state, the welfare of their communities, the viability of their economy, the safety and future prospects of their families. But you Progressives have managed to reverse the Founders. They placed lengthy restrictions on the government — which they feared. They wrote a Bill of Rights. Where in the First Amendment did they prohibit groups of citizens from talking to other groups of citizens about issues that matter to them? Thankfully, the courts agree.

    God, do you sound like Joseph Stalin! GAB, Chisholm et al committed a crime against the people.

  34. David Blaska says:

    George Orwell would be proud of you!

  35. DAWN'S EARLY LIGHT says:

    Dave – you seem to be embroiled in a coldren of word soup. You have failed to address any of my points. Dave – don’t you think the rules have changed even a incy wincy wittle bit since our founding fathers wrote the constitution. You say the rule breakers were talking about the welfare of our state, the safety of our families, welfare of our communities……- c’mon Dave – you know and I know they never talked about those things. It was all about your Boy Walker winning. Based on what you think they talked about – then obviously their conversations and the money they put into the elections in perfect harmony really had a negative impact on our state. But I digress. So Dave – tell me why Walker is trying to cut a deal with the prosecutors. I can tell you – Walker does not want those records released but low and behold – the CFG wants SOME of them released but want to keep several blocked from the public eye. If it was simply about protecting our families or the viability of our economy ( Walker fail ) then surely these records must be nothing more than patriotic flag waving salutations to Walker. Dave the prosecutors that have something that Walker does not want disclosed. You say a court agrees. Yes Dave – and the credibility of Randa is highly questionable. Consider his order to destroy evidence – my God – a blatant disregard for the law. Not to mention Randa’s very close relationships with the Koch brothers – Randa went on several expense paid trips to attend Koch backed junkets in 2006, 2008,2010, and 2012. You can’t lobby judges but you sure can wine and dine them. Tell me Dave – who has the loudest and most effective free speech when Randa is listening. Not only is Randa incompetent – he’s unethical – case in point – the federal court questioning his ruling on the 8 million used by the church for cemeterie upkeep. They also mentioned the clear conflict of interest that Randa has with the church as troubling. Troubling Dave? – tell me Dave – who had the loudest and most effective free speech in that case – the church or the victims. Gets some rest Dave – or at least simmer down that soup of yours so it has some substance.

  36. David Blaska says:

    I keep forgetting, Dawn. Only the Walker haters (people like you) care about a prosperous, safe, and beautiful Wisconsin. The rest of us (the majority of voters) are dupes. I could … wait, I’m getting a call from one of the Koch Brothers through my dental fillings. Get back to you later. Darn, now the sheriff’s deputies are pounding on my door. That will teach me to use my real name, unlike certain cowards.

  37. PMD says:

    “But you Progressives have managed to reverse the Founders. They placed lengthy restrictions on the government — which they feared. They wrote a Bill of Rights.”

    See this is the problem with people like you playing the founder’s card. It leads one to believe that you really don’t know all that much about them, but just throw out “The Founders” like a tic, like the argument’s over because you brought up “The Founders.” They had diverse views. They were not a group of men who believed the exact same thing about every issue. They didn’t all fear government. Many believed a strong central government was essential for the new nation to survive. So when you act like they all held the exact same beliefs about everything, and you just carelessly throw out “The Founders,” you’re either being disingenuous or you really don’t know history as well as you claim.

    Also, your responses to Dawn are full of sarcasm and name-calling, but they are light on substance. They are pretty much devoid of substance.

  38. David Blaska says:

    So sayeth the Speech Police.

  39. PMD says:

    That’s right. My badge is around here somewhere….

  40. DAWN'S EARLY LIGHT says:

    Yeah – you big bully Dave Blaska.

  41. DAWN'S EARLY LIGHT says:

    Dave Said ” Only the Walker haters (people like you) care about a prosperous, safe, and beautiful Wisconsin.”

    Now Dave – that’s not what I said but it does have some truth based on Walker and his republican yes men and women setting back Wi environmental laws 30 years. Yet I’m sure there are many Republicans who love the environment and question the policies signed into law by their boy Walker. Look at all the counties that are voting down expansion of Frac sand mining. Many of those boards are composed of Republicans. Do you think moderate Republicans who love to fish, hunt and boat like the fact that GTAC wrote the environmental laws that literally allows the filling in of streams and wetlands? Hmm Dave? Does it bother you Dave that Walker and the DNR has systematically and drastically cut back on pollution enforcement. The DNR’s policies and regulatory oversights have been extremely lax. Was appointing anti regulation extraordinaire Cathy Stepp an appropriate move for Walker? Is that how we protect our natural resources? Yes Dave – there are many Walker haters who also want the environment protected. But you can be assured ( but only if you want to be ) there are many if not thousands of republicans who want the beauty of WI protected. And that my dear friend are votes in the bank for Burke. That word soup must be still simmering – not much coming out David.

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