File:Scott Walker by Gage Skidmore.jpg

A secret investigation into corruption in Wisconsin has reportedly expanded into the 2011 and 2012 recall elections and involves aides to Governor Scott Walker according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Sentinel also reports that former assistant US Attorney Francis Schmitz was recently appointed as special prosecutor. The investigation includes a focus on possible campaign finance violations for the Wisconsin recall effort.

Sources said the investigation is following up on a number of leads turned up by an earlier John Doe probe, which was led by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm into the former and current aides of Gov. Scott Walker during his time as Milwaukee County executive. Six individuals — including three former Walker aides, an appointee and a major campaign contributor — were convicted of criminal charges as a result of the probe. The first-term Republican governor said he was not a target of the investigation, which ran for nearly three years.

A John Doe probe functions much like a federal grand jury, allowing prosecutors to conduct searches, subpoena records and other material, and take testimony under oath from witnesses — all in secret.

The earlier John Doe probe ended in March with criminal convictions of former aides of Scott Walker. The aides and others benefited from a criminal defense fund that Governor Scott Walker assisted with. A sitting governor providing help with a legal defense fund for corrupt aides raised concerns.

Democratic Party officials were still critical of the Republican governor, even though he was not charged. They noted that it was unprecedented for a Wisconsin governor to operate a criminal defense fund.

“That Scott Walker avoided prosecution is no feather in his cap,” Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski said. “The crimes convicted flow directly from Scott Walker’s belief that he is above the law.”

Was the defense fund an attempt to ensure loyalty from Walker’s former aides? To make sure they would not implicate Walker in any of the crimes they were convicted of? Because now it seems another criminal investigation has been opened and the old incentives to stay quiet may be put in jeopardy.

Will Scott Walker escape prosecution again?

Photo by Gage Skidmore under Creative Commons license.