Two people are asking a federal judge to issue an order designed to protect their identities if more documents are made public in an investigation into allegations of campaign law violations by Gov. Scott Walker's recall campaign and a host of conservative groups.
Attorneys for the unnamed parties filed a request with U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa late Thursday asking that they be notified before any more documents are unsealed in the case. Last week a federal appeals court judge unsealed more than 250 pages of court filings, despite their objections.
Prosecutors have said in court filings that they are looking into allegations of illegal campaign activity involving Walker's campaign and conservative groups during the 2011 and 2012 recalls. In a document written in December but made public last week, the special prosecutor described what he called a "criminal scheme" to evade campaign fundraising and coordination laws.
An attorney for special prosecutor Francis Schmitz released a statement Thursday saying that document laid out a legal theory, but that no determination had been made whether to charge Walker or anyone else with a crime. Attorney Randall Crocker also said Walker was not a target of the probe.
The investigation began in 2012 but was put on hold by Randa last month. Randa sided with conservative group Wisconsin Club for Growth, which argued the investigation was a violation of its free speech rights.
The state court judge overseeing the probe, known as a John Doe, in January quashed prosecutors' requests for subpoenas, also effectively halting the investigation.
Walker has repeatedly said he did nothing wrong and that his political opponents, including Democratic challenger Mary Burke, are slandering him by referring to the December court document that talked about his involvement in a "criminal scheme."
Walker argues that he's being treated unfairly because two judges have put the probe on hold and he has not been charged with wrongdoing.
The court filing from the unnamed interveners Thursday pointed to media coverage of the documents unsealed last week as reasons why the judge needs to take action to preserve their anonymity.
"The governor of Wisconsin was described in nationwide media accounts as at the center of a 'criminal scheme,' with benefit of the temporizing term 'allegedly' either bestowed or not, depending on the mores or sympathies of the particular media organization," the attorneys wrote. "Many other people — all of them charged with no crime — saw their names bandies about locally and nationally with the implication that they also must be guilty of something, by association at least."
Randa last week gave the unnamed people two weeks to work with both prosecutors and Wisconsin Club for Growth to determine which records in the case should remain secret. A coalition of five media groups wants the entire record in the lawsuit brought by Wisconsin Club for Growth to be made public.
The attorneys said they were in the process of reviewing "thousands of pages of sealed documents" but "the risk of further unsealing is more urgent."
They asked to be given copies of any documents subject to the investigation's secrecy order and be notified whenever anyone asks to unseal documents. The attorneys said that would give them time to take action before anything is released affecting the privacy of the unknown people.