By Brendan O'Brien
MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and others participated in a broad plan to circumvent the state's campaign finance laws during special elections in 2011 and 2012, state prosecutors alleged in formerly sealed court documents released on Thursday.
Prosecutors spelled out their case against Walker, who is seeking re-election this year and is considered a potential 2016 Republican White House candidate, and others in court documents released by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.
"The coordination under investigation resulted in either prohibited and illegal in-kind or direct contributions that were not reported by the candidate campaign committees as required by law," prosecutors said.
Prosecutors have not filed charges in the broad investigation into alleged illegal campaign coordination between special interest groups and campaigns in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Club for Growth filed a suit in federal court in February in an attempt to block the investigation from continuing.
Prosecutors said their investigation "focuses on a wide-ranging scheme" to coordinate activities during recall elections of state Senate candidates in 2011 and Walker in 2012.
Walker became the first governor to survive a recall election. Since winning the election, he has taken steps to raise his national profile ahead of a possible presidential bid, meeting with big Republican donors and publishing a book.
His battle with unions has won praise from conservatives, but opinion polls show him well behind better known Republicans such former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul at this early stage. Prosecutors cited an email Walker sent in May 2011 to Republican strategist Karl Rove that talked about the importance of a campaign consultant, R.J. Johnson, in leading an illegal effort to coordinate fundraising campaigns among conservative groups. "Bottom line: R.J. helps keep in place a team that is wildly successful in Wisconsin," Walker said in the email. "We are running 9 recall elections and it will be like running 9 Congressional markets in every market in the state (and Twin Cities)."
(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee, David Bailey in Minneapolis and Andy Sullivan in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham and Bill Trott)