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Analysis: What the Press Corps Isn’t Telling You About the Scott Walker Probe

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Associated Press

A First Amendment Education

The selective investigation of the political speech of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker‘s allies goes to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals next week, and with any luck the judges will vindicate a district court’s preliminary injunction that has shut down the probe. They should do so before the November election because this unconstitutional exercise is being exploited by Mr. Walker’s enemies to defeat him.

“Neither collaboration among independent groups nor communication between independent groups and a political campaign is illegal. On the contrary, it is speech protected by the First Amendment.

The latest media misinformation concerns emails that show Mr. Walker raised money for the Wisconsin Club for Growth. But raising money for Super Pacs and 501(c) groups is routine political behavior, as President Obama and Harry Reid routinely demonstrate.

“The prosecution brings to mind the abuses against the late Ted Stevens, who was convicted of corruption in office only weeks before an election because prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence. In Wisconsin the prosecution has used a secret probe and selective leaks to make legal fund-raising appear illegal.”

Prosecutors pursuing Mr. Walker have been pushing a theory of campaign-finance law that the state’s own campaign finance regulator, the Government Accountability Board, has admitted is unconstitutional under Supreme Court precedent. The theory has also been rejected by the Seventh Circuit and by two judges in the Walker probe.

You’d never guess any of this from reading the anti-Walker press. Legal activity is made to look nefarious with loose references to terms like “coordination” that have precise definitions for what qualifies as political advocacy under the law.

The Washington Post said Mr. Walker solicited contributions from donors “to give large contributions to an allied tax-exempt group that backed him and other state GOP lawmakers.” Well, no, because the Club for Growth never ran campaign ads for Mr. Walker. The New York Times said one of Mr. Walker’s campaign aides “directed the political spending of the outside groups, most of them nonprofits, and in effect controlled some of them.” No again, because one person’s relationship with two groups does not equal control or coordination under the law.

In a recent online chat, a reader asked Daniel Bice, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s go-to reporter for prosecutors, why his articles failed to explain the difference between “express advocacy” and “issue advocacy”—a crucial distinction in the law on coordination between political campaigns and outside groups… (read more)

WSJ

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