The more information that is released in the John Doe probe into Governor Scott Walker's recall campaign and conservative groups, the more I can see why prosecutors had to drag this out--and why the groups are claiming their First Amendment rights are being infringed upon. It all revolves around the nebulous term "coordination" contained in the state campaign finance law.
The latest so-called "smoking gun" released on Friday was an email from Walker's campaign staff telling him to encourage people to donate money to Wisconsin Club Growth. But is that "illegal coordination" or simply the Governor and his campaign workers exercising their right to free speech? Is recommending something to someone "coordination"?
Let's say I told everyone they should go out for lunch to Buffalo Wild Wings on Thursday because they have a special on boneless wings that day. Am I "coordinating" a lunch trip to Buffalo Wild Wings? No, I'm just telling you about a delicious special that you might like. Now, if I reserved a bunch of tables at a specific time at a certain restaurant and pre-ordered X number of lunch specials--that would be considered "coordination". Right?
And it is that level of activity that the special prosecutors in the John Doe have been trying to find--apparently without success, or someone would have been brought up on charges by now. And it's also why Club For Growth and the other targeted groups want this whole thing brought to an immediate end--because it looks like both sides are carefully staying away from "coordinating activity" and sticking to "suggesting" that supporters help each other.
The greatest fault here lies at the feet of the lawmakers that drafted the regulations that leave so much open to interpretation. I'm sure their only thought was "we don't want the politician's campaign and the special interest groups sitting at the same table plotting out who will raise what cash, how they will spend it and what message each radio and TV ad will contain". If they didn't want Scott Walker to say "Feel free to give some cash to Wisconsin Club For Growth"--and Club For Growth to run ads saying "Vote for Scott Walker"--then they should have banned "suggesting" as well. And then prepared for the onslaught of First Amendment lawsuits to follow.