Settlement in John Doe involving Walker? But isn’t investigation technically on hold?

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MADISON (WITI) -- The John Doe investigation exploring alleged illegal coordination between Governor Scott Walker's campaign and outside political groups has taken another turn. Lawyers for both sides are looking for answers after published reports of a settlement.

The John Doe investigation took another twist this week, when the Wall Street Journal reported Walker is apparently ready to cut a deal to end the investigation.

"It's not surprising that Governor Walker's campaign might be interested in ending this investigation.  This is after all, an election year," Jay Heck with Common Cause Wisconsin said.

Prosecutors want to know if the Walker campaign broke the law by coordinating with outside groups like the Wisconsin Club for Growth -- which ran a pro-Walker ad during the 2012 recall campaign.

The Club for Growth has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to stop the investigation -- saying the probe violates the group's First Amendment rights.

Earlier this month, Rudolph Randa -- a federal judge, agreed and halted the investigation.

Because the investigation is technically on hold, the Wall Street Journal report on "settlement talks" infuriated the Club for Growth.

The group's lawyer David Rivkin wrote to prosecutors: "A settlement...would be a blatant violation of the preliminary injunction."

In response, prosecutors filed a "motion for clarification" -- asking the court if the injunction prevents settlement talks or not.

"People who know anything about it are prohibited from talking about it. People who don't know anything about it shouldn't be talking about it, so either way I don't talk about it," Gov. Scott Walker said.

So why are these legal maneuvers important?

The John Doe investigation is widely viewed as a major stumbling block in Walker's re-election bid -- especially in a race that is, at the moment, tied.

"I think it will certainly be a campaign issue that Gov. Walker will have to address. What actually happened here, if we have a governor who's asking now to settle?" Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa (D-Milwaukee) said.

Additionally, the John Doe investigation could have far-reaching national consequences with respect to campaign finance law.

"If it ends up that legal authorities back off and effectively bless direct coordination between shadowy interest groups, between candidates and their campaigns, that will create a slippery slope that will lead us to a point where a campaign for a candidate will be run by a front group that keeps all the money secret," Mike McCabe with the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign said.

On Thursday, May 29th, the Walker campaign responded with a short statement:

"Neither Governor Walker nor his campaign committee are parties to the federal lawsuit. This means they have no legal standing to reach a settlement or deal in their lawsuit."

The statement is referring to the federal lawsuit -- not necessarily the investigation as a whole.

CLICK HERE to sift through letters from the attorneys dealing with this case.

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