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Wisconsin elections board says new law restricting John Doe probes moots lawsuit claim


MADISON, Wisconsin — The state's elections board is asking a judge to dismiss as no longer relevant one of the claims that Wisconsin Club for Growth made against it in a lawsuit related to the investigation into Gov. Scott Walker.

The Government Accountability Board said in the filing made Friday and posted Monday on the court website that the claim is moot because it deals with the John Doe law that has since been changed.

Walker on Oct. 23 signed into law a bill ending secret John Doe investigations into political misconduct including bribes, theft and campaign finance violations.

Walker had twice been involved with John Doe investigations. The first centered on aides and associates of his while he was Milwaukee County executive, and the second focused on whether his recall campaign illegally coordinated with conservative groups in 2011 and 2012.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ended the second investigation in July, saying the type of coordination being looked at was legal. Republican lawmakers, who denounced the second John Doe investigation as a political witch hunt, passed the law change to ensure it could never again be used to look into similar allegations against politicians.

Wisconsin Club for Growth and one of its directors, Eric O'Keefe, filed a lawsuit last year arguing that the elections board overstepped its authority with its role in the investigation. In part, the lawsuit seeks to prohibit the board from participating in that John Doe investigation, arguing that it was making illegal expenditures by being involved in the probe.

Because the law no longer allows John Doe proceedings to investigate crimes within the Government Accountability Board's jurisdiction, the issues raised in the claim are "purely academic," board attorney Thomas Brush said in the court filing.

"All that remains is an abstract controversy over the legal import of past events that can have no practical effect upon any existing controversy, arising out of a law that has been amended in such a way that this controversy cannot recur," Brush wrote.

O'Keefe and Club for Growth attorney Todd Graves said in an email that he disagreed and would make his arguments in a subsequent filing.

Waukesha County Circuit Judge Lee Dreyfus Jr. is scheduled to hear arguments on the motion Dec. 9.

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