Lawfare against conservatives in Wisconsin

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Lawfare against conservatives in Wisconsin

If you remem­ber the IRS scan­dal, where the IRS slow-​walked unnu­mer­able appli­ca­tions for non-​profit tax sta­tus of con­ser­v­a­tive groups, you prob­a­bly will see what is hap­pen­ing in Wis­con­sin as the next step. Last week­end, The Wall Street Jour­nal fea­tured a brief look at what is essen­tially legal per­se­cu­tion of vir­tu­ally every group that helped Gov­er­nor Scott Walker sur­vive his recall elec­tion last year.

A bit of back­ground is in order. Pub­lic unions had dom­i­nated local pol­i­tics, espe­cially school boards, for years. They had so much power at the school board level that the teach­ers’ union had their own health insur­ance com­pany able to over­charge for health insur­ance. Fur­ther, even though the Mil­wau­kee County pub­lic employ­ees’ union did not ask for the pen­sion enhancers that led Walker to run for and become Mil­wau­kee County Exec­u­tive back in 2002, they refused to give them up and were oth­er­wise thorns in Walker’s side through­out his 8-​plus years as County Executive.

Near the end of his run as County Exec­u­tive, Walker asked the Mil­wau­kee County Dis­trict Attorney’s office, headed by Demo­c­rat John Chisolm, to open a John Doe inves­ti­ga­tion into an appointee sus­pected of embezzel­ing funds intended for vet­er­ans. That mor­phed into a multi-​year inves­ti­ga­tion of Walker’s county staff and donors to his 2010 guber­na­to­r­ial cam­paign headed by assis­tant dis­trict attor­ney Bruce Land­graf. Despite the fact that the John Doe pro­ceed­ings are sup­posed to be secret, many tid­bits that were played by the media, and specif­i­cally the Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal Sen­tinel, as well as the Demo­c­rat Party of Wis­con­sin as embar­rass­ing to Walker leaked out dur­ing the run-​up to his recall elec­tion in 2012. After plea-​deal con­vic­tions of 6 low-​level peo­ple includ­ing the orig­i­nal tar­get, and rather ques­tion­able tac­tics against sev­eral peo­ple later exon­er­ated, includ­ing jail­ing a busi­ness­man for con­tempt of court because he refused to break state law and turn over credit-​card infor­ma­tion, that John Doe inves­ti­ga­tion qui­etly ended shortly after Walker won his recall election.

Land­graf, appar­ently unsat­is­fied that the first John Doe inves­ti­ga­tion wouldn’t get Walker out of office, opened up a sec­ond John Doe tar­get­ing vir­tu­ally every vocal group sup­port­ing Walker and the 11 Repub­li­can state sen­a­tors who faced recall elec­tions even before the 2012 set of elec­tions. M.D. Kit­tle of Wis­con­sin Reporter has been doing yeoman’s work on the var­i­ous aspects of this, and I will refer you to Wis­con­sin Reporter for the 13 pieces (so far) he has written.

In short, the groups are being tar­geted with sub­poe­nas ask­ing for all com­mu­ni­ca­tions they made since 2011 and their donor lists, some­thing that is, if mem­ory serves, not a pub­lic doc­u­ment in Wis­con­sin. The fact that it is a John Doe inves­ti­ga­tion means that the tar­gets are not to dis­close that they are tar­gets under penalty of law.

Three unnamed tar­gets of the sec­ond John Doe have tried to get it stopped as an overly-​broad over­reach of pros­e­cu­to­r­ial power. A 3-​judge panel on the Madison-​based 4th Dis­trict Court of Appeals shot that down yes­ter­day. One of the judges was Joanne Klop­pen­berg, last seen fail­ing to steal a Supreme Court seat from Jus­tice David Prosser in 2011. A sec­ond was Brian Blan­chard, archi­tect of the Capi­tol cau­cus “scan­dal” in 2002 that attempted to make the Dane County branch of the DPW the dom­i­nant power in Wis­con­sin politics.

If you remember the IRS scandal, where the IRS slow-walked unnumerable applications for non-profit tax status of conservative groups, you probably will see what is happening in Wisconsin as the next step. Last weekend, The Wall Street Journal featured a brief look at what is essentially legal persecution of virtually every group that helped Governor Scott Walker survive his recall election last year.

A bit of background is in order. Public unions had dominated local politics, especially school boards, for years. They had so much power at the school board level that the teachers’ union had their own health insurance company able to overcharge for health insurance. Further, even though the Milwaukee County public employees’ union did not ask for the pension enhancers that led Walker to run for and become Milwaukee County Executive back in 2002, they refused to give them up and were otherwise thorns in Walker’s side throughout his 8-plus years as County Executive.

Near the end of his run as County Executive, Walker asked the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office, headed by Democrat John Chisolm, to open a John Doe investigation into an appointee suspected of embezzeling funds intended for veterans. That morphed into a multi-year investigation of Walker’s county staff and donors to his 2010 gubernatorial campaign headed by assistant district attorney Bruce Landgraf. Despite the fact that the John Doe proceedings are supposed to be secret, many tidbits that were played by the media, and specifically the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as the Democrat Party of Wisconsin as embarrassing to Walker leaked out during the run-up to his recall election in 2012. After plea-deal convictions of 6 low-level people including the original target, and rather questionable tactics against several people later exonerated, including jailing a businessman for contempt of court because he refused to break state law and turn over credit-card information, that John Doe investigation quietly ended shortly after Walker won his recall election.

Landgraf, apparently unsatisfied that the first John Doe investigation wouldn’t get Walker out of office, opened up a second John Doe targeting virtually every vocal group supporting Walker and the 11 Republican state senators who faced recall elections even before the 2012 set of elections. M.D. Kittle of Wisconsin Reporter has been doing yeoman’s work on the various aspects of this, and I will refer you to Wisconsin Reporter for the 13 pieces (so far) he has written.

In short, the groups are being targeted with subpoenas asking for all communications they made since 2011 and their donor lists, something that is, if memory serves, not a public document in Wisconsin. The fact that it is a John Doe investigation means that the targets are not to disclose that they are targets under penalty of law.

Three unnamed targets of the second John Doe have tried to get it stopped as an overly-broad overreach of prosecutorial power. A 3-judge panel on the Madison-based 4th District Court of Appeals shot that down yesterday. One of the judges was Joanne Kloppenberg, last seen failing to steal a Supreme Court seat from Justice David Prosser in 2011. A second was Brian Blanchard, architect of the Capitol caucus “scandal” in 2002 that attempted to make the Dane County branch of the DPW the dominant power in Wisconsin politics.