By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A conservative group and ally of Gov. Scott Walker filed a federal lawsuit Thursday asking that a Wisconsin law limiting coordination between third-party organizations and political candidates be declared unconstitutional.
The issue of what constitutes illegal coordination between issue-advocacy groups and candidates is at the center of an investigation into Walker’s 2012 campaign and more than two dozen conservative groups.
Citizens for Responsible Government Advocates argued in its lawsuit — filed in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee — that the state cannot restrict groups like CRGA from coordinating with candidates. The lawsuit names members of the Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections, and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm as defendants.
State elections board spokesman Reid Magney had no comment.
The attorneys for CRGA also represent Wisconsin Club for Growth, which challenged in federal court the investigation into Walker’s campaign and at least 29 conservative groups as an unconstitutional free-speech violation. A federal appeals court last month overturned a ruling that stopped the investigation, but also said the issue needs to be resolved in state courts.
Despite that ruling, the investigation remains on hold because a judge overseeing it blocked the issuance of subpoenas. An appeal of that decision is pending in front of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa, who sided with Wisconsin Club for Growth in blocking the investigation in May, has been assigned to handle the new lawsuit challenging the campaign-coordination law.
CRG Advocates is related to the group that backed recalls in Milwaukee County that led to Walker being elected county executive in 2002. He was elected governor in 2010 and is seeking re-election this year against Democrat Mary Burke.
The group argues in the lawsuit that it wants to work with candidates to create a website called “Take Charge Wisconsin!” but is fearful such coordination could be found to be illegal. The lawsuit asks for the court to determine that the coordination is protected under its free speech and free association constitutional rights, and that Chisholm and the Government Accountability Board be prohibited from stopping that coordination.