Appeals court stays lower court ruling, allows John Doe probe to - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Appeals court stays lower court ruling, allows John Doe probe to continue

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The U.S. 7th  District Court of Appeals put a hold on a lower court ruling that would have ended a John Doe investigation into illegal coordination between conservative issue groups and Republican campaigns during the 2012 recall elections.

That hold came late Wednesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa ordered the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office to stop the investigation and destroy all evidence related to it.

The constitutionality of the investigation was challenged in court by Wisconsin Club For Growth President Eric O'Keefe, one of the targets of Milwaukee County prosecutors.

The investigation, known as John Doe II (because it follows the Milwaukee County DA's John Doe investigation into the Milwaukee County Executive's Office), is seen as a possible stumbling block for Governor Walker's reelection campaign if anything damaging is discovered and released to the public.

But the Governor says he wasn't celebrating Judge Randa's ruling, because he knew the case likely wouldn't end there.

"I have continuously made efforts to make sure that that wasn't a distraction," said Gov. Walker, after attending a law enforcement memorial ceremony in Milwaukee.

Governor Walker said he did hope Tuesday's ruling by Judge Randa would bode well for the future.

"At least if this is the first of what I hope to be the finishing touches on that being completed, I think that would be good, not so much for me, but for the people of this state," said Gov. Walker.

John Doe II is seen by many as Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner Mary Burke's best chance to find new ammunition she can use to take Walker down in November.

Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate put out a statement condemning Judge Randa's original ruling and Governor Walker.

"Even a Republican activist judge acknowledges that this isn't an exoneration -- Scott Walker and his Koch (brothers) funded allies have simply found a way, for now, to evade campaign finance law," wrote Tate.  "But all the money in the world won't change Scott Walker's abysmal record on jobs that has Wisconsin ranked 9th out of 10 midwest states on job creation."

Walker says he expects to field more attacks like that one in the coming months.

"I don't think there's any elected official in America who's been more scrutinized than I have so this is just another stage in that," said Gov. Walker.  "But we've tried not to lose sight of our larger charge which is not to get into details about things like this and then into the mud. Its to stay focused on helping the people of this state with a better economy."

The 7th District Appeals Court ordered attorneys for Milwaukee County prosecutors to submit a brief on their appeal by June 16th.  The hold on the lower court decision will remain in place until the appellate court makes its own ruling, allowing the investigation to continue and allowing prosecutors to hold on to the evidence they've collected.

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