Again and again, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker flouted election laws to raise millions from some of the richest executives and biggest corporations in America, illegally laundering the money through the nominally independent, nonprofit Wisconsin Club for Growth — and now we have all the details, thanks to an enormous leak of documents that a Wisconsin judge ordered destroyed.
The documents come from a failed bid by Wisconsin prosecutors to hold Walker to account. That case went all the way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court before the slim majority of Republican judges on the bench dismissed the case and ordered all documents permanently destroyed. As the documents — published today in the Guardian — show, some of those same judges relied on the money laundry that Walker used to get and keep his office to campaign for their own elections.
What's more, the documents reveal that the dark money that Walker raised translated into a tit-for-tat in the form of legislative and executive favors from the Wisconsin government — for example, NL Industries nearly escaped all punishment for the lead poisoning it induced in the people who lived and worked near its factory, thanks to a law that retroactively immunized them from liability for polluting (NL was only held to account when a court ruled that retroactive immunity was unconstitutional). Harold Simmons, owner of NL Industries, wrote three checks of undisclosed amounts to the Wisconsin Club for Growth — checks that Scott Walker solicited.
The trove is fascinating, and documented in eye-watering detail by the Guardian's team in a tremendous, deep interactive piece. There's lots of juicy notes, like the fact that Donald Trump gave big when asked by Scott Walker.
More significant, though, is the effect that this dump will have on the ongoing effort to have the Supreme Court review the Wisconsin court's ruling that exonerated Walker of wrongdoing. Until this leak, it seemed like any attempt would have quite a struggle ahead of it, thanks to the Wisconsin court's order that all the evidence of Walker's crimes be destroyed. With that evidence intact, we may see the Supreme Court's clerks be swayed into thinking that there's a chance to make significant law here.
Take David Prosser. He was one of the four conservative judges who approved the July 2015 ruling that terminated the John Doe investigation, sacked Schmitz from his position as special prosecutor and ordered the destruction of all the documents that had been collected (later that order was softened a little to a demand that the prosecutors hand in all the documents to the court which would keep them secret under seal).
At precisely the same time as the six Republican senators were embroiled in their recall election, Prosser was in his own electoral fight for survival. He was up for re-election in April 2011 and facing a tough challenge from JoAnne Kloppenburg, then Wisconsin's assistant attorney general. The Prosser election and the recall election were intertwined in that Kloppenburg was attempting to turn her battle against Prosser into a referendum on Governor Walker's anti-union legislation, Act 10.
Among the leaked John Doe files that the Wisconsin supreme court ordered to be suppressed are documents that underline how anxious Walker's circle were about the threat, as they saw it, to the court's conservative majority. In an email dated 14 December 2010, WCfG's director Eric O'Keefe says he's been in touch with Diane Hendricks, the owner of a roofing company who Forbes describes as America's richest self-made woman with a personal fortune of $5bn. Hendricks is a well-known funder of rightwing causes and individuals, among them Scott Walker himself who she was to go on to support with $500,000 in 2012 for his own recall election.
Because Scott Walker Asked [Ed Pilkington/The Guardian]