Curmudgeon's Corner

cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner

Heavy-Handed John Doe Investigations

Wisconsin, Political, Quality of Life

John Doe investigations are heavy-handed, even when valid.  When there is a political taint to a John Doe investigation the heavy-handedness is magnified considerably.  That, unfortunately, looks to be the case with the John Doe launched by Milwaukee County Assistant DA, Bruce Landgraf who is employed by John Chisholm, the County District Attorney, who happens also to be a Democrat.

This is the second John Doe from this office aimed at Governor Walker.  The first resulted in lower level campaign staffers being charged but never got close to the Governor.  This second effort was intended, it appears, to damp down support for and contributions to Governor Walker’s campaign effort.

(The Wall Street Journal published an article titled “Wisconsin Political Speech Victory” on January 10th in which it stated it had been the recipient of a leaked copy of the opinion issued by the judge.)

Judge Gregory A. Peterson ruled last Friday that the subpoenas issued in this second instance were improper.  His ruling stated that those subpoenas “do not show probable cause that the moving parties committed any violations of the campaign finance laws”.   The subpoenas had been issued to Friends of Scott Walker, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the Wisconsin Club for Growth, Citizens for a Strong America and the officers and directors of those organizations.

The John Doe requires that the targets not say anything about the investigation, so they can easily be savaged by innuendo when the usual leaks occur that bring the press into the equation.  That is a significant part of the heavy handed approach granted to prosecutors, and becomes especially significant when there is an underlying benefit to the instigators of suppressing the free speech rights of a political figure and his donors as would appear to have been at least a side benefit in this situation.

The judge dealt with the issue of “express advocacy” directly.  He said, “There is no evidence of express advocacy” and further stated “the subpoenas fail to show probable cause that a crime was committed”.  He found instead that the organizations had engaged in “issue advocacy” which is permissible.

It is unlikely that we’ve heard the last of this John Doe since the ruling can be appealed and may’ve been already by the time this is published.

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