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Lawyers: court rulings may doom John Doe investigation

MILWAUKEE (WSAU-Wheeler News)  At least two attorneys say a major court ruling this week could hurt the state's John Doe investigation into campaign activities in the Wisconsin recall elections. The federal appeals court in Chicago ruled that the state's ban on corporate political spending is unconstitutional -- and other laws that regulate issue ads and financial reporting by outside groups are either unconstitutional or too vague.

Former A-C-L-U legal director Raymond Dall'Osto of Milwaukee tells the Journal Sentinel that the law against candidates coordinating with outside groups "may end up being not enforceable." The John Doe probe is looking for evidence that Republican groups and recall candidates -- including Governor Scott Walker -- may have violated the coordination law.

Milwaukee campaign finance lawyer Mike Maistelman says the winners in this week's court rulings are the "Doe defendants." Milwaukee campaign finance laywer Jeremy Levinson does not agree. He said unreported coordination remains illegal -- and a group's spending in consultation with a campaign is an in-kind contribution that must be reported as a donation and meet state limits.

State officials and prosecutors have not commented.

The Doe probe is currently on hold after a judge shut it down as part of a federal civil rights lawsuit.