An investigation into possible campaign finance violations involving conservative groups in Wisconsin and Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign committee has become entangled in back-to-back federal court rulings on whether it should continue. On Tuesday, a federal judge halted the investigation, giving a momentary victory to Mr. Walker, a Republican who is seeking re-election this fall and is sometimes mentioned as a presidential possibility for 2016. The investigation, the details of which are murky because of tight state secrecy rules, had clouded Mr. Walker’s political prospects and become a focus of attention for his critics. But on Wednesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit stayed the injunction, calling for a lower court review of an earlier, separate appeal in the case.
In a decision issued late Tuesday, Judge Rudolph T. Randa of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin had granted a preliminary injunction to stop the investigation, determining that it infringed on the First Amendment rights of the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which had sued along with its director, Eric O’Keefe.
Judge Randa found that, contrary to prosecutors’ claims, the Wisconsin Club for Growth had not improperly coordinated with Mr. Walker’s campaign committee and groups like Wisconsin Right to Life and United Sportsmen of Wisconsin as Mr. Walker sought successfully to survive a 2012 recall election.
At issue was whether the groups had carried out permitted advertising about issues like limits on collective bargaining, or whether their efforts had been so closely coordinated with Mr. Walker’s campaign as to require that they be reported as contributions aimed expressly at electing a particular candidate.