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Walker: Campaign attorneys have said I am not target of John Doe probe

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Gov. Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker

MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday that prosecutors haven't told him directly he is not the target of the ongoing John Doe investigation into his close associates and former aides.

"I haven't been told that directly. Others have been told that — attorneys who work for the campaign," Walker said.

The governor took questions from reporters Tuesday at the Alliant Energy Center after announcing plans to foster Wisconsin's dairy industry.

When asked who told his attorneys that he's not the target of the nearly two-year investigation, he said, "that's what they passed on to me, I didn't ask them specifically."

Walker added, "Again, you're asking a lot of questions about something that ultimately by its nature is, not per my request but per theirs, is something we're not asked to talk about until it's complete."

He announced on Friday that he had formed a legal fund to pay for expenses related to the ongoing John Doe investigation. Wisconsin statutes allow government officials to seek or obtain contributions to so-called defense funds only if they are being investigated for or charged with a violation of either campaign finance or other election laws.

Walker said then that a campaign attorney talked with the Government Accountability Board, and afterward believed setting up the fund was the board's recommendation for how best to proceed.

Walker has said repeatedly that he does not believe he is the target.

GAB spokesman Reid Magney has declined comment, saying the board cannot comment on whether it has given advice to an official.

Democrats questioned whether Walker was being honest in his comments about the investigation.

"Listening to Scott Walker talk about the John Doe corruption probe makes the head spin. Every answer is self-serving," said Graeme Zielinski, spokesman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. "Wisconsinites have every reason to fear that Scott Walker has criminally corrupted their state government."

Former Walker staffer Kelly Rindfleisch has been charged with four felony counts of misconduct in public office, and Darlene Wink has been convicted on two misdemeanor counts of political solicitation by a public employee. Both worked for Walker during his time as Milwaukee County executive, and both are accused of fundraising activities while at their taxpayer-funded jobs.

In the criminal complaints against them, made public in late January, were accusations leveled toward Walker's close associates, including the use of personal laptop computers and an unofficial "secret email system" to solicit money for the campaigns of Walker and Brett Davis, who was running for lieutenant governor. Investigators say they kept the system hidden from all but a close group of Walker's insiders.

Last month Walker announced he had hired two high-powered attorneys to assemble background information and ensure he's "in the best position possible to continue aiding" the investigation. Mike Steinle is a Milwaukee criminal defense attorney with the firm Terschan, Steinle & Ness. And former federal prosecutor John Gallo is a partner at Sidley Austin in Chicago who specializes in representing criminal defendants and grand jury targets, according to the firm's website.

The state law governing legal defense funds says campaign contributions can be added to such funds if donors give their permission, but lobbyists cannot contribute to the funds. And an official who forms a fund needs to file a document listing each person who contributed more than $50 to it.


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