MADISON (WKOW) -- Wisconsin Democrats accused Governor Walker of pay-for-play politics Wednesday after the U.S. version of the British newspaper The Guardian released a story that includes court documents further illustrating how the Governor coordinated with a third-party conservative group during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections.
That coordination was the subject of a John Doe investigation initiated by the Milwaukee County District Attorney, which was ultimately shut down in July by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The story came as a result of someone leaking about 1,500 pages of court documents to The Guardian, which had been ordered sealed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Documents previously leaked in 2014 showed Governor Walker had directed large corporate donors to funnel money to the conservative group Wisconsin Club for Growth (WCFG), but the new records published by The Guardian reveal just how personal Governor Walker's role was in soliciting those contributions.
They cited more than ten examples where Walker personally met with large donors who then contributed anywhere from $10,000 to $500,000 to Wisconsin Club for growth - including Donald Trump.
One donor even noted on his check to WCFG that he wrote it "because Scott Walker asked."
"Because Scott Walker asked, corporate money was given. Because Scott Walker asked, money was funneled to shadowy third party groups. The second question that it begs is, what did they ask for in return?," said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha), who led a Democratic news conference in response to the story Wednesday afternoon.
Democrats say the documents suggest some of the people who cut large checks were rewarded by getting favorable legislation passed into law.
John Doe documents briefly released two years ago showed a company called Gogebic Taconite had donated $700,000 to WCFG prior to the 2012 gubernatorial recall election.
Gov. Walker won that recall and signed a law the next year which allowed Gogebic Taconite to open an iron mine in northern Wisconsin. The project was later scrapped due to obstacles put in place by the federal government.
Governor Walker said in 2014 that he never personally solicited that donation and was unaware it had been made.
The new John Doe documents released Wednesday by The Guardian show a similarly large corporate donation was made to WCFG in 2011.
"We can see NL Industries - $750,000," said Rep. Barca.
NL Industries is company that used to manufacture lead paint and stood to benefit from proposed legislation that would make it harder for the victims of lead paint poisoning to sue such companies in Wisconsin.
That provision was slipped into the 2013-15 Wisconsin State Budget at the last minute.
"We know why the lead paint bill was passed and why four words appeared in our budget that would have made the lead bill - the lead paint bill - retroactively applied, which the federal courts struck down as unconstitutional," said Rep. Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire).
Two of the Republican state senators on the Joint Legislative Committee on Finance who voted in favor of passing that lead paint provision were Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) and Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls). They, along with Governor Walker, benefited greatly from WCFG's efforts to keep them in office during the 2011 and 2012 recalls. WCFG ran issue ads to help them and all three won their recall elections.
Sen. Olsen also did not make himself available for interviews on the subject Wednesday.
"How many more bills passed right before or right after hundreds of thousands of dollars of donations went to the Club for Growth on - what appears to be - the behest of Scott Walker?," asked Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point).
In shutting down the John Doe investigation earlier this summer, the Wisconsin Supreme Court's conservative majority wrote nothing in the prosecutor's case suggested any illegal activity had taken place.
A spokesperson for Governor Walker's campaign sent 27 News the following statement in regards to The Guardian's story.
"As widely reported two years ago, the prosecutor's attorney stated that Governor Walker was not a target. Several courts shut down the baseless investigation on multiple occasions, and there is absolutely no evidence of any wrongdoing," wrote Joe Fadness.
But the three district attorney's involved in the investigation - which includes Dane County DA Ismael Ozanne - took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort reopen the probe.
"It's especially obvious why they felt so strongly and why they were willing to do that," remarked Rep. Barca.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule later this month on whether the investigation can continue.