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May 08, 2014

Federal Judge Shuts Down Secret "John Doe" Investigations of Scott Walker and Right-Leaning Groups

I haven't written about this because honestly I continue not to understand it. I read almost the entire order shutting down the investigation (providing injunctive relief telling the progressive prosecutors from five counties to Shut It Down) and I looked up other writers discussing it but I still don't really understand what the prosecutors were doing.

John Ekdahl brought it up on the podcast a few times, and I didn't understand it then, either.

Well, I understand only the vaguest outline of it:

Prosecutors from five, get this, progressive-leaning counties were conducting a never-ending investigation into groups that just happened to support the union-limiting reforms in Wisconsin, based on a flawed reading (or deliberate misreading?) of campaign finance laws, and furthermore demanded that each target of the probe (and there were many) remain absolutely silent about it.

A judge has shut this anti-democratic, thuggish abuse of conservatives down.

The four-year effort by Democratic prosecutors to criminalize political speech in Wisconsin has hit the wall of the U.S. Constitution. In a ruling that could have consequences nationwide, federal judge Rudolph Randa issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday ending the secret John Doe probe of allies of Governor Scott Walker.

We've been telling you for months about the secret Wisconsin John Doe, which operates like a grand jury and forces targets to remain silent. The targets are right-of-center groups disliked by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, his special prosecutor Francis Schmitz, and the left-leaning state Government Accountability Board that regulates campaign finance...

Prosecutors had justified their dawn raids and harassment in the name of exposing illegal coordination between the Walker campaign and conservative groups. But Judge Randa ruled that the investigation was based on a mistaken reading of campaign-finance law that violated Mr. O'Keefe's First Amendment's rights.

One of the judge's key findings was that the law, supposedly put in place to prevent corruption and the rigging of political contests, cannot be permitted to be used as a club for corruption and the rigging of the political contests.

There's a minor epilogue as Judge Randa's order was technically defective but now he's reissued a correct order.

Update: This 2013 Legal Insurrection post seems to explain some of it.

As I understand it, the main complaint was that prosecutorial resources were being warped for partisan purposes.

As Wisconsin Reporter first revealed, the investigation, launched in early 2012 by the Democrat-led Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office, aims to prove conservatives illegally coordinated activities in the historic recalls of Gov. Scott Walker and Republican state senators, multiple sources say.

One source with knowledge of the investigation has told Wisconsin Reporter the ultimate goal is to bring down Walker, the bane of Wisconsin liberals.

Conservative targets and others close to Wisconsin’s latest politically charged John Doe contend the probe is nothing more than a “taxpayer-funded, opposition-research campaign.”

“This is not a question of what conservatives did wrong. It’s a question of one party in this state using prosecutorial powers to conduct a one-sided investigation into conservatives,” said one source who spoke on condition of anonymity due to his proximity to the probe.

What is striking is that no liberal organizations appear to be targeted in the John Doe, particularly interesting in light of the tens of millions of dollars pumped into Wisconsin’s unprecedented spate of recalls in 2011 and 2012 by union and left-leaning groups.

And it should be noted that these prosecutors were searching for evidence in their probe. One can then wonder why they didn't also think of searching for evidence of illegal coordination among Walker's opponents.

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posted by Ace at 05:32 PM

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