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Politics & Government

John Doe Rulings Sharpen Focus on Campaign Funding


It is not clear if, or when, a federal appeals court will announce another decision in an ongoing John Doe investigation.

The probe has been off and on and off again in Wisconsin this week. Twice, federal Judge Rudolph Randa has ordered prosecutors to stop investigating ties between conservative funders and Gov Walker’s 2012 recall campaign.

The judge says he’s concluded that the probe violates the funders free speech rights and that the prosecutors can be sued, as a result. Randa also ordered them to destroy all evidence they’ve collected over the past couple years.

Prosecutors won one round mid-week in federal appeals court.

Christopher Murray is a senior lecturer at Marquette’s Les Aspin Center for Government in Washington.

He told us that people outside Wisconsin may not be familiar with the specifics of the case here, but many are paying attention to the overall issue of big money in campaigns.

Murray says there is a lot of money moving around the political landscape now, as they was in the late 1900s and in the 1960s.

However, he says some things are still clearly spelled out.

"There is still a very clear distinction when it comes to "coordinated spending" --where outside individuals are restricted in their ability to go to a candidate and say, 'How would like me or our group to spend this amount of money that we're getting ready to invest," Murray says.

He adds that is still the stark dividing line between candidates and parties.

Murray says huge outlays by political organizations on behalf of candidates seems to no real impact on voter behavior, unlike other areas, he says.

"I would hesitate to say there is an ideological bias there, I think it's really issue by issue by issue," Murray says.