Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Campaign Coordination With Outside Groups is Common

Study says Walker's coordination with independent groups doesn't compare to some other states.

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Eric O'Keefe, director of the Wisconsin Club For Growth. Photo from PR Watch.

Eric O’Keefe, director of the Wisconsin Club For Growth. Photo from PR Watch.

The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative news organization based in Washington, D.C., has just published an article on alleged coordination between political campaigns and outside groups that cites Wisconsin as a prime example. The article, “How cozy can candidates be with political groups?,” also looks at alleged coordination in Michigan, Connecticut, Minnesota and Florida.

“Laws vary widely when it comes to how tight candidates can be with political backers,” Consider the Source reporter Rachel Baye writes. “(W)hat’s OK in one state may not be OK in another.”

The criminal investigation into Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s collaboration with independent political groups has been making national headlines, but in certain other states, such a relationship would barely raise an eyebrow.

In Wisconsin, a recently halted John Doe probe was looking into allegations of illegal coordination between candidate campaigns and groups including Wisconsin Club for Growth. The groups maintain that there is nothing illegal about coordination that does not involve express advocacy, and two judges have issued supportive rulings, both of which are under appeal.

The article quotes Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, saying that he believes Wisconsin Club for Growth and others are seeking to make Wisconsin a test case “that goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.” He thinks “they’re hoping that they can convince the five-member majority that has swept away so many campaign finance regulations in recent years to do away with coordination laws.”

Bill Lueders is the Money and Politics Project director at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (www.WisconsinWatch.org). The Center produces the project in partnership with MapLight.

The Center collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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