UPDATE: Media group files appeal to get probe records


UPDATED Thursday, July 17, 2014 -- 5:49 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A coalition of five media groups is appealing a federal judge's order refusing to unseal the entire record in a lawsuit filed by Wisconsin Club for Growth against prosecutors investigating the conservative group, Gov. Scott Walker's campaign and others.

The group filed the appeal on Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa ruled last month against the media coalition, saying releasing the documents would subject those involved to "unwanted public scrutiny."

Two unnamed people objected to the release of those documents and the entire record. Randa has given all the parties involved until Aug. 7 to reach agreement on what documents to make public.

The media groups represent Wisconsin newspapers and broadcasters and also includes the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council and the American Society of News Editors.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press
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UPDATED Wednesday, July 16, 2014 --- 9:18 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Club for Growth is asking for three more weeks to work on agreement over making public documents related to an investigation into whether Gov. Scott Walker's recall campaign and conservative groups broke campaign finance laws.

The Wisconsin Club for Growth on Wednesday asked U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa for the additional time. The conservative group is working with prosecutors and two unnamed parties to reach a deal on what documents to release.

Randa on July 2 granted an extension until Thursday for the parties to come to an agreement.

But Wisconsin Club for Growth says that timeline is "infeasible" due to the work required to review the 3,000 pages of documents in question.

No one has been charged in the probe which Randa put on hold in May.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, July 9, 2014 --- 5:17 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Newly unsealed documents in the ongoing lawsuit challenging an investigation into possible illegal campaign activity by conservative groups and Gov. Scott Walker's 2012 recall campaign shed little light on the probe.

The documents were released publicly Wednesday by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, over an objection from conservative group Wisconsin Club for Growth which wanted to keep them secret.

The group argued that since the federal court judge overseeing the lawsuit had not released them yet, the appeals court should not circumvent him. But it acknowledged the documents were likely to be unsealed by the judge.

The newly released material includes portions of arguments made by special prosecutor Francis Schmitz and investigator Dean Nickel as to why they should be immune from being sued by Wisconsin Club for Growth.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Tuesday, July 8, 2014 --- 4:58 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A federal appellate judge has ordered two sets of documents filed in a lawsuit challenging a secret investigation into possible coordination between Gov. Scott Walker's campaign and conservative groups.

The right-leaning Wisconsin Club for Growth filed the lawsuit in February, arguing the investigation violates the group's free speech rights. U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa agreed with the group and has put the probe on hold.

Prosecutors have appealed Randa's stay to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which unsealed 266 pages of previously redacted documents last month.

7th Circuit Judge Diane Wood on Tuesday denied a Club for Growth motion to seal attachments to one of its filings in the appeal and ordered they be released to the public. It's unclear what the attachments contain or when they'll be released.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, July 2, 2014 --- 5:23 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A federal judge has given prosecutors, a conservative group and two unnamed parties more time to review what documents could be unsealed in a secret investigation into whether Gov. Scott Walker's campaign and right-leaning organizations violated campaign finance law.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa halted the investigation in May as part of a lawsuit the conservative group Wisconsin Club for Growth filed challenging investigators' basis for the probe. On June 19 he gave all the parties two weeks to determine what records in the case should remain secret.

That made Wednesday the deadline for the parties' report. On Tuesday the parties filed a joint motion asking to extend the deadline to July 17. They say they have to review more than 3,000 pages.

Randa granted the motion late Wednesday afternoon.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, July 2, 2014 --- 12:36 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Prosecutors, a conservative group and two unnamed parties have asked a federal judge for more time to review documents that could be made public in a secret investigation into whether Gov. Scott Walker's campaign and right-leaning organizations violated campaign finance law.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa halted the investigation in May as part of a lawsuit the conservative group Wisconsin Club for Growth filed challenging investigators' basis for the probe. On June 19 he gave all the parties two weeks to determine what records in the case should remain secret.

That made Wednesday the deadline for the parties' report. But on Thursday the parties filed a joint motion asking Randa to give them until July 17. They say they have to review more than 3,000 pages.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, July 2, 2014 --- 12:18 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Prosecutors, a conservative group and two unnamed parties have asked a federal judge for more time to review documents that could be made public in a secret investigation into whether Gov. Scott Walker's campaign and right-leaning organizations violated campaign finance law.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa halted the investigation in May as part of a lawsuit the conservative group Wisconsin Club for Growth filed challenging investigators' basis for the probe. On June 19 he gave all the parties two weeks to determine what records in the case should remain secret.

That made Wednesday the deadline. But on Thursday the parties filed a joint motion asking Randa to give them until July 17. They say they have to review more than 3,000 pages.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Friday, June 27, 2014 --- 9:32 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Two unnamed people involved with the investigation into Gov. Scott Walker's recall campaign and a host of conservative groups are asking a federal court judge to issue an order designed to further protect their identifies.

Attorneys for the unnamed people filed a request with U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa late Thursday asking that they be notified before any more documents in the case are made public. Last week a federal appeals court judge unsealed more than 250 pages, despite objections from the unknown people.

Prosecutors have said in court filings that they were looking into alleged illegal campaign activity involving Walker's campaign and conservative groups during the 2011 and 2012 recalls.

An attorney for the lead prosecutor released a statement Thursday saying Walker was not a target of the probe.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, June 26, 2014 --- 10:25 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The attorney for the special prosecutor investigating Gov. Scott Walker's campaign and conservative groups says no conclusions have been made about whether there's enough evidence to charge him or anyone with a crime.

Thursday's statement from attorney Randall Crocker also says that Walker himself was not a target of the investigation and has never been served with a subpoena.

Crocker represents lead prosecutor Francis Schmitz.

The probe was halted last month by a federal judge. A court document Schmitz wrote in December and made public last week identified Walker as being part of an alleged criminal scheme to evade campaign laws.

Crocker says the document was a legal argument for further investigation, not a determination that criminal charges were warranted against Walker or anyone else.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Monday, June 23, 2014 --- 12:30 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A central argument in Gov. Scott Walker's defense against allegations that he was part of a nationwide criminal scheme to break campaign laws is that those going after him are Democrats on a partisan witch hunt.

But Walker ignores the fact that Republican prosecutors are also involved in the probe.

The investigation was launched by a Democratic district attorney in Milwaukee and two judges have rejected arguments made by prosecutors and put the investigation on hold pending appeals.

But the special prosecutor hired by a bipartisan group of district attorneys and nonpartisan panel of retired judges to lead the investigation is a Republican who says he voted for Walker. And the federal judge who issued a ruling halting the probe in May was appointed by a Republican president.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, June 19, 2014 --- 9:30 p.m.

Gov. Scott Walker criticized prosecutors Thursday for trying to build a case against him, after a federal appeals judge unsealed documents in the John Doe investigation into the recall elections.

"People can say or do whatever they want," Gov. Walker said. "I think to me, an objective, third party, separate branch of government , the judiciary, state and federal, made it clear that they have felt there isn't a case here. So to me, it's one of those where you get other people speculating about things like that."

Meanwhile, liberal political analysts call the documents 'disturbing.'

"I think there's one question Gov. Walker needs to answer. And that is, is this still going on? Are you still working with these organizations in a way that is considered illegal. I think that's a question that he needs to anwswer, and he needs to answer now," said Scot Ross, the executive director of One Wis. Now.
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UPDATED Thursday, June 19, 2014 --- 4:54 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A federal judge has rejected a request by five media groups to unseal the entire record in a lawsuit filed by Wisconsin Club for Growth against prosecutors investigating the conservative group, Gov. Scott Walker's campaign and others.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa ruled Thursday against the media coalition, saying releasing the documents would subject those involved to "unwanted public scrutiny."

Randa's order came hours after a 7th Circuit Appeals Court judge made public more than 250 pages of material in the case after prosecutors and Wisconsin Club for Growth did not object.

Two unnamed people objected to the release of those documents and the entire record. Randa ordered them to work with both prosecutors and Wisconsin Club for Growth to determine within two weeks which records should remain secret.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, June 19, 2014 --- 1:00 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Newly released documents show prosecutors believe Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was at the center of a nationwide "criminal scheme" to illegally coordinate fundraising with outside conservative groups.

No charges have been filed against Walker or any member of his staff. The documents became public Thursday as part of an ongoing lawsuit challenging the investigation by the conservative group Wisconsin Club for Growth.

One of the filings from prosecutors outlines previously unknown details about the investigation that began in 2012 as Walker was facing a recall election.

Prosecutors say Walker, his chief of staff and others who worked for him were discussing illegal coordination with a number of national groups and prominent figures, including GOP strategist Karl Rove.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, June 19, 2014 --- 11:10 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A federal appeals court has released unedited copies of 266 pages of previously redacted documents filed in the investigation into whether conservative groups illegally coordinated with Gov. Scott Walker's campaign.

Seventh U.S. Circuit Court Judge Frank Easterbrook on Thursday denied a motion from two unnamed people to block the release of the documents. An attorney for one of those unnamed people declined comment.

They had argued making the documents public could reveal their identity, their "private papers" and invade their privacy.

The documents consist of legal filings made by prosecutors and Wisconsin Club for Growth in the federal lawsuit filed over the legality of the investigation.

A federal judge has temporarily put the investigation on hold, a move prosecutors are fighting.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, June 4, 2014 --- 1:07 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Court filings made public related to the John Doe investigation into Gov. Scott Walker's recall campaign and other conservative groups shed light on why prosecutors wanted to keep the probe secret.

Prosecutors on Wednesday filed briefs in federal court in support of their request that a judge put on hold his earlier order halting the probe. That came in a case brought by Wisconsin Club for Growth, one of the investigation's targets.

An exhibit filed with the court Wednesday is a partially redacted copy of a petition submitted in July 2013 to start the secret investigation in Iowa County against Eric O'Keefe, a member of Wisconsin Club for Growth's board.

The filing says the investigation should be secret because targets are "well placed" and publicity could harm the effort.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, May 22, 2014 --- 10:17 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Attorneys representing Wisconsin media groups say a judge should unseal all documents that don't reveal private information about the subjects of a secret investigation into Gov. Scott Walker's recall election and others.

The groups filed a motion late Wednesday saying unsealing the documents would allow the public to oversee the actions of its judicial and executive branches of state government.

Prosecutors in the John Doe investigation agree all the documents should be unsealed. Attorneys for the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which is under investigation, want to keep hundreds of pages secret.

The investigation started in August 2012 and focuses on alleged illegal campaign fundraising, spending and coordination by conservative groups, the governor's campaign and others.

Attorneys for the media groups called the request for continued secrecy meritless.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Friday, May 16, 2014 --- 9:17 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Prosecutors in the investigation of Gov. Scott Walker's recall campaign and other conservative groups are objecting to a request that some of the records in the case remain secret.

Attorneys for Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and two of his prosecutors filed a motion in federal court late Thursday objecting to the Wisconsin Club for Growth's request that all or portions of 13 documents remain sealed.

Both sides had agreed that most of the secret documents in the investigation should be made public, given that so much information is already known.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa is considering the request. He had previously ruled in favor of Wisconsin Club for Growth that the investigation related to illegal campaign coordination was an infringement on the conservative group's free speech rights.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, May 15, 2014 --- 9:50 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Prosecutors have asked a federal appeals court to allow an investigation into Republican Gov. Scott Walker and other conservative groups to proceed.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and special prosecutor Francis Schmitz filed the motions Wednesday and Thursday with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

They are seeking a stay in last week's ruling by U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa that temporarily stopped the investigation, which has focused on possible illegal campaign coordination between various campaigns and conservative groups.

Prosecutors had previously appealed the ruling to the 7th Circuit. They are now asking that Randa not be allowed to take any other action in the case while their appeal is pending.

Randa is separately considering whether to make public dozens of pages of documents in the case.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A federal judge has ordered the public release of more than 100 documents in a secret investigation into Gov. Scott Walker's recall campaign and other conservative groups.

Wisconsin Public Radio reports (http://bit.ly/T5XsS9 ) that U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa issued his order Wednesday night after John Doe prosecutors said they no longer objected to publicizing the documents.

The attorney for special prosecutor Francis Schmitz wrote the case had "become so widely known that maintaining the integrity of the investigation may no longer justify maintaining secrecy."

Five journalism groups initially requested the release of documents, including letters, briefs and judge's orders.

Randa did grant a request by the conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth to keep four documents private, after the group's attorneys claimed the documents could harm the group's First Amendment privilege.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, May 8, 2014 --- 12:20 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A convoluted legal fight over an investigation that has dogged Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for years shows no signs of ending soon.

Walker scored a pair of legal wins this week, but the court fight continues and could stretch into the fall and beyond.

The first-term Republican is running for re-election against Democrat Mary Burke, a former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive. He also is considering a run for president in 2016.

Investigators for nearly two years have been looking into possibly illegal campaign fundraising and coordination involving Walker's 2012 recall campaign and conservative groups. A federal judge twice this week order the probe stopped, saying it violated free-speech rights.

Prosecutors were appealing, keeping the case alive even as Walker says he's not being distracted by it.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, May 8, 2014 --- 10:33 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The investigation into Gov. Scott Walker's 2012 recall campaign and conservative groups that supported him has been halted for the second time in as many days by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa on Thursday issued an order in a separate case that allows for his previous order halting the probe to be effective.

A federal appeals court on Wednesday had said Randa's original order Tuesday stopping the investigation was in error because he had yet to rule on whether a separate appeal by prosecutors was frivolous.

Randa said Thursday that the appeal, which was to his ruling that prosecutors are not immune from being sued by Wisconsin Club for Growth, was indeed frivolous. That reinstates his preliminary injunction halting the probe.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, May 7, 2014 --- 7:18 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A federal judge's decision to halt a secret investigation into illegal coordination between conservative groups and Republican Gov. Scott Walker's recent recall campaign could have far-reaching implications for campaign finance law.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa on Tuesday ordered prosecutors to halt their investigation.

That order was put on hold Wednesday by an appeals court. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said Randa should not have issued the order without waiting for it to decide another appeal in the case.

Prosecutors leading the secret probe say if his decision stands, it would allow independent groups that don't have to disclose their donors to collaborate with candidates who do. Candidates would then have access to vast amounts of money without voters ever knowing the source.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, May 7, 2014 --- 5:14 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A federal appeals court has put on hold a judge's ruling that delivered a major victory to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

The ruling Tuesday halted a secret investigation into Walker's 2012 recall campaign and conservative groups that supported him. Prosecutors appealed that ruling Wednesday morning, and less than eight hours later the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago granted a stay.

The appeals court says U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa in Milwaukee should not have entered the preliminary injunction because the prosecutors had filed an appeal of an earlier decision that they were not immune from being sued.

The case against prosecutors was brought by the conservative group Wisconsin Club for Growth. The case has shadowed Walker as he runs for re-election and eyes a run for president.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, May 7, 2014 --- 2:55 p.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker may have scored a major win in an ongoing court battle over his 2012 recall campaign but he says he doesn't view the victory as vindication.

Walker said Wednesday he'll leave it to others to parse the significance of Tuesday's ruling. He says he's just looking forward to getting back to governing.

A so-called John Doe investigation was looking into whether Walker's campaign illegally coordinated with conservative groups. A federal judge halted the investigation Tuesday.

Walker says he can't comment much because he hasn't read the ruling. He says he expects the case will continue, but he's glad it seems to be approaching an end.

He also says he's accustomed to dealing with court challenges so he doesn't get too worked up about individual rulings.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, May 7, 2014 --- 11:17 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin prosecutors have appealed a federal judge's decision to halt the investigation into Gov. Scott Walker's 2012 recall campaign and conservative groups that supported him.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph T. Randa issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday blocking the probe into whether Walker's campaign illegally coordinated with those groups about the spending. Randa also ordered prosecutors to destroy all their evidence.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm asked the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to stay the injunction on Wednesday.

Chisholm argued that the order to destroy evidence conflicts is premature and Randa ignored a request for a hearing.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, May 7, 2014 --- 10:05 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A federal court ruling halting an investigation into Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's 2012 recall campaign and other conservative groups that supported him is a major victory for the Republican as he faces re-election and a possible 2016 presidential run.

A judge on Tuesday issued an injunction ordering a stop to the investigation that has shadowed Walker as he runs for a second term with an eye toward national office.

Walker avoided being charged in a previous criminal investigation that targeted his former aides and associates. The second John Doe investigation was focused on fundraising and spending by his campaign and his allies.

Milwaukee attorney Mike Maistelman said Wednesday that Walker will be able to use the decision to argue that he was unjustly targeted by political enemies.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Tuesday, May 6, 2014 --- 8:29 p.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Club for Growth lead attorney David Rivkin says the decision will help begin restoring the group's constitutionally protected rights.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm did not immediately respond to an email for comment Tuesday night.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Tuesday, May 6, 2014 --- 8:26 p.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- A federal judge has blocked a secret investigation into possible illegal coordination between conservative groups and recent recall campaigns in Wisconsin.

U.S. District Judge Rudoph Randa issued the preliminary injunction Tuesday in Milwaukee.

The conservative organization Club for Growth filed a federal lawsuit in February, arguing the probe amounts to harassment and violates conservatives' free speech rights.

Randa agreed and ordered the prosecutors to stop conducting the so-called John Doe investigation. The judge also ordered the prosecutors to return all property seized in the investigation and to destroy all copies of information obtained in the probe.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Monday, April 14, 2014 --- 2:15 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A liberal-leaning group has asked the state Supreme Court to stay out of a dispute over subpoenas in a secret investigation into possible illegal coordination between conservative groups and recent recall campaigns.

The judge overseeing the probe, Gregory Peterson, granted a request from Club for Growth members in January to quash five subpoenas. The special prosecutor leading the investigation, Francis Schmitz, has asked the 4th District Court of Appeals to review Peterson's decision. Republican Gov. Scott Walker's campaign attorney has asked the Supreme Court to take the case directly.

The court is controlled by a four-justice conservative majority. The group One Wisconsin Now sent a letter to the high court Monday asserting that Club for Growth and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce have spent heavily to support the four justices' campaigns.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, April 9, 2014 --- 10:37 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A federal judge in Milwaukee says a lawsuit seeking to stop a secret investigation into possible illegal coordination between conservative groups and recent recall campaigns can continue.

The conservative organization Club for Growth filed a federal lawsuit in February arguing the probe amounts to harassment and violates conservatives' free speech rights.

The prosecutors leading the investigation asked U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa to dismiss the suit, arguing federal courts should stay out of the case.

Randa refused the request Tuesday, concluding that key First Amendment rights are at stake in the case and Club for Growth has standing to bring a lawsuit. The judge also noted prosecutors wouldn't be immune from an injunction halting the investigation.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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Posted Monday, February 10, 2014 --- 1:13 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Club for Growth and its director have filed a federal lawsuit to end a secret investigation targeting that conservative group and other similar organizations related to fundraising and spending in recall elections.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee against federal prosecutors and the judge overseeing on the ongoing John Doe probe.

Wisconsin Club for Growth, and its director Eric O'Keefe, argue that the investigation is a violation of their free speech rights as well as their constitutional right to free assembly and equal protection.

The lawsuit, which has several sections redacted in the public file, asks the court to issue injunctions to stop the investigation and award damages to O'Keefe and Club for Growth as determined following a jury trial.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press


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