May 7, 2014

Bitter AP Focuses On Politics and Not Free-Speech Import of Wis. ‘John Doe’ Ruling

In his “analysis” on Tuesday’s U.S. District Court ruling which called a halt to “a secret investigation into his 2012 recall campaign and conservative groups that supported” Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s Republican Governor, Scott Bauer at the Associated Press basically gave away what the prosecution’s agenda really has been all about.

It really hasn’t been about cleaning up political campaigns, or whatever other similar tired bromides the Walker-hating left dishes out from time to time. It’s been about hurting Walker’s reelection effort this fall and punishing him for reforming public-sector collective bargaining in the Badger State. Short of that, it’s an attempt to marginalize him as a potential 2016 presidential candidate by smearing him with the “under investigation” and “scandal” tags. Let’s start with the opening paragraphs of Bauer’s bluster (bolds are mine throughout this post):

ScottWalkerWideC2012

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker emerged with a major victory this week when a federal court halted a secret investigation into his 2012 recall campaign and conservative groups that supported him, ruling the probe was a breach of free-speech rights. The decision could boost his re-election campaign and better his prospects for a possible 2016 presidential run.

While prosecutors filed an appeal Wednesday to overturn the injunction, those who have followed this case and an earlier John Doe probe that focused on former Walker aides and associates said the ruling is a clear vindication for the Republican and his allies.

“This will give credence to his presidential aspirations when critics might say `You were wrapped up in these John Does,’” said Milwaukee attorney Mike Maistelman, who has represented Democratic and Republican elected officials in a variety of cases. “Walker and his spin doctors around him are going to say this was a political endeavor and that argument was backed up by the federal court.”

It isn’t just “Walker and spin doctors” who are saying this, Scott Bauer and Mike Maistlman. It’s anyone who believes that a prosecutor’s office is not meant to be an adjunct to a political party’s campaign efforts emboldened by police-state powers and enabled by partisan judges to cripple opponents’ efforts. It’s also anyone who believes that people who wish to donate to issue-oriented advocacy groups have the right to anonymity. Arnold Ahlert at FrontPage explained the circumstances in November (links are in original; some paragraph breaks added by me):

John Doe investigation gives prosecutors a lot of latitude otherwise unavailable to them. Unlike normal investigations, which are initiated based on probable cause, John Doe investigations enable investigators to establish probable cause itself (i.e., on their own, without evidence — Ed.). In pursuing that effort, law enforcement officials are granted the power to subpoena witnesses, take sworn testimony, offer immunity from prosecution, and compel testimony from reluctant witnesses.

Their reach is limited only by a judge, whose is responsible to ensure procedural fairness and decide whether to file a criminal complaint. Yet the judge has broad powers as well, including the power to determine whether the examination will be secret. All of this occurs while the gag order part of the statute leaves the target of a probe with no way to defend themselves publicly.

“This is a taxpayer-funded, opposition-research campaign,” … (a) source said (to the Wisconsin Reporter, a part of Watchdog.org — Ed.). “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.”

Another knowledgable source contended “investigators are spying on people and using the power of government to collect records.” Another insider emphasized the indiscriminate nature of the probe noting that “it’s all outside, independent groups being questioned about whether they worked with campaigns. Everybody is being sniffed into.”

In other words, it’s a fishing expedition designed to cripple Walker’s supporters dry up their money supply by scaring off potential donors.

Continuing at FrontPage:

(Wisconsin Club For Growth Secretary Eric) O’Keefe told the WSJ (Wall Street Journal) that the subpoenas “froze my communications and frightened many allies and vendors of the pro-taxpayer political movement in Wisconsin and across the country.” “Even if no one is ever convicted of a crime,” he says, “the process is the punishment.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Christian Schneider takes it one step further, noting that it is “particularly troubling that the investigation targets only conservative groups; apparently all the pro-union money that flooded into Wisconsin to help unseat Walker doesn’t quite gnaw on the consciences of these particular investigators,” he writes. “One needs to look no further than the Internal Revenue Service scandal from earlier this year to realize how dangerous partisan government can be when it has an agenda.”

Or an ideological fixation. … The man who pushed through his ambitious union reforms and ultimately triumphed in the June 5, 2012 recall election, has undoubtedly become a prime target once again. And since the IRS investigation remains in limbo, it is not inconceivable that leftists in Wisconsin see that attempt to intimidate conservative organizations as a useful template.

Now let’s get back to the AP’s Bauer:

Walker made a national name for himself by taking on public sector union collective bargaining in 2011. The following year, he became the first governor in U.S. history to win a recall election – despite the first John Doe investigation being an issue during the campaign. That investigation lasted three years and ended in 2013 with six convictions, including three of his former aides. Walker was interviewed but never charged.

His political opponents have been keeping a close watch on the second probe, at the heart of which was political fundraising and spending during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections. And it’s taken on even greater significance as Walker considers a 2016 presidential run. Foes, including American Bridge 21st Century, a political action committee funded by liberal billionaire George Soros, have tried to paint Walker as too scandal-ridden to be trusted.

Translation: Darn it, I can’t believe that first John Doe investigation didn’t get him, and I’m hoping the second one will somehow drag on long enough to hurt his presidential aspirations, if not his reelection effort.

Continuing:

(U.S. District Judge Rudolph) Randa issued a preliminary injunction in favor of the conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth, finding that the investigation into alleged illegal campaign coordination was an infringement on the conservative group’s free speech rights.

Of course, Bauer didn’t reveal what the judged enjoined as a result of his ruling, because it would have revealed the degree of harassment and disruption the John Doe investigation targets have suffered simply for engaging in the political process. We can’t have that. But Daniel Bice and Patrick Marley at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did (HT Hot Air):

Randa’s decision revealed new details of the probe, including an Oct. 3 raid of the homes of Johnson and Deborah Jordahl, another consultant to the club. Neither could be reached for comment.

“Sheriff deputy vehicles used bright floodlights to illuminate the targets’ homes,” Randa wrote. “Deputies executed the search warrants, seizing business papers, computer equipment, phones, and other devices, while their targets were restrained under police supervision and denied the ability to contact their attorneys.”

… He ordered an immediate halt to the investigation, the return of all property seized during it, and the destruction of any information and materials gained in the investigation. He told the Wisconsin Club for Growth it did not need to cooperate with prosecutors in any way.

The exact quote from the judge’s ruling:

… the plaintiffs‘ motion to preliminarily enjoin Defendants Chisholm, Landgraf, Robles, Nickel and Schmitz from continuing to conduct the Doe investigation is GRANTED. The Defendants must cease all activities related to the investigation, return all property seized in the investigation from any individual or organization, and permanently destroy all copies of information and other materials obtained through the investigation. Plaintiffs and others are hereby relieved of any and every duty under Wisconsin law to cooperate further with Defendants‘ investigation.

The defendants are all Democrats. Wisconsin’s Club For Growth has sued them in both their “official and personal capacities.” It would seem wholly appropriate that the Club continue to seek civil and criminal relief from prosecutors who have abandoned their proper roles.

The AP’s Bauer ignored something else which will drive leftists to distraction which the Journal Sentinel reporters didn’t:

Randa’s ruling referred frequently to Citizens United, the 2009 U.S. Supreme Court case that found corporations can spend limitless sums in elections, and to a high court ruling last month that eliminated the overall limit on what individuals can give toward congressional races.

Yesterday truly was a long overdue rough day for the left.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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4 Comments

  1. It’s more diabolical than that – it’s about criminalizing conservatism. Do note that the persecutors (I won’t honor them with the prosecutor name) targeted virtually every conservative group that participated in issue advocacy since 2009.

    The order has been temporarily stayed for two reasons: the larger order freezing the John Doe because the Milwaukee persecutors filed an appeal of the denial of their immunity from the lawsuit before Randa issued his stay, and the order of the return of property seized/destruction of all copies of “evidence” because that is needed to adjudicate lawsuits on both the federal and state levels.

    The larger order freezing the John Doe proceedings will be reinstated if Randa rules the Milwaukee persecutors’ appeal is frivolous (which given the tone of Randa’s previous rulings is likely).

    Comment by steveegg — May 8, 2014 @ 8:29 am

  2. Thanks for that info, Steve.

    Comment by Tom — May 8, 2014 @ 8:43 am

  3. The stay didn’t last long, and certainly not long enough for any criminal charges to get filed – Randa certified in rather strong language the persecutors’ appeal is frivolous.

    The persecutors will be back before the 7th Circuit by lunchtime in an attempt to keep their persecution alive, but now they’ll have to argue for a stay on the order to completely stop on the merits.

    Comment by steveegg — May 8, 2014 @ 11:50 am

  4. Thanks for the link.

    Quote of the day: “A prosecutor ‘does not enjoy absolute immunity before he has probable cause.’”

    Comment by Tom — May 8, 2014 @ 12:41 pm

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