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Appeals court won't shut down John Doe investigation

UNDATED (WSAU-Wheeler News)  A secret John Doe investigation will continue into alleged campaign finance law violations in the Wisconsin recall elections of 2011-and-'12. The state appeals court in Madison unanimously decided yesterday to throw out an effort to halt the probe. This comes three weeks after the judge in the case, Gregory Peterson, quashed subpoenas in which prosecutors were seeking evidence from conservative groups.

Previous media reports said the John Doe was zeroing in on alleged illegal coordination between outside conservative groups and the campaigns of G-O-P recall candidates -- including Governor Scott Walker. Dean Strang, the attorney for a group of unnamed petitioners who've been trying to halt the John Doe, says he might appeal yesterday's ruling to the State Supreme Court.

Numerous documents in the case were unsealed yesterday, showing that the probe centers on five individual targets -- most of whom are from the counties that surround Madison. Also, it was revealed that Republican state Attorney General J-B Van Hollen turned down a request to be the chief prosecutor. He thought about it for five months before deciding it would not make him look impartial, and possibly undermining public confidence in the investigation as a whole.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat, was asked to lead the probe at the start of last year. He arranged for former federal prosecutor Francis Schmitz to take the lead role.