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Club for Growth to oppose prosecutor request (UPDATE)

By SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The attorney for a conservative group being investigated along with Gov. Scott Walker’s recall campaign said Thursday he will object to the lead investigator’s request for a federal judge to clarify his order halting the probe.

Investigator Francis Schmitz filed the request for clarity late Wednesday, asking the judge whether the order affects his conversations with attorneys of those targeted. A person close to the investigation told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Schmitz is talking with Walker about a possible settlement that would end the probe.

Walker’s recall campaign and other conservative groups have been investigated since 2012 as part of the secret probe, known as a John Doe. The investigation focused on alleged illegal campaign fundraising, spending and coordination between conservative groups, Walker’s campaign and others during recall elections in both 2011 and 2012.

Wisconsin Club for Growth and its board member Eric O’Keefe filed a federal lawsuit challenging the investigation. Earlier this month U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa sided with Wisconsin Club for Growth, saying the probe violated the group’s free speech rights.

News of possible settlement talks led Wisconsin Club for Growth lead attorney David Rivkin to send Schmitz a letter late Wednesday warning him that such discussions could be a violation of the judge’s order.

Rivkin said Thursday the conservative advocacy group will file a motion objecting to the request from Schmitz for the judge to clarify the scope of a preliminary injunction. Prosecutors have appealed the issuing of the preliminary injunction and asked the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to put it on hold.

Walker’s campaign is not a party to that lawsuit, but has been a target of the investigation. Walker’s campaign released an unsigned statement Thursday that did not address the status of any possible settlement of the investigation, but instead reiterated that Walker is not a part of the Wisconsin Club for Growth lawsuit.

Rivkin would not say what arguments Wisconsin Club for Growth planned to make in its filing objecting to Schmitz seeking clarity of the judge’s order halting the probe. But Rivkin, in his letter to Schmitz’s attorney on Wednesday, expressed concern that any settlement talks that would violate the “speech or associational rights” of Wisconsin Club for Growth or O’Keefe would be a “blatant violation of the preliminary injunction.”

Schmitz’s attorney said that Schmitz has done nothing to violate the judge’s order as he understood it.

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