Fighting Back Against Abuse of Power

A blow was struck to those targeting conservatives when the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled against DA John Chisholm’s effort to legally harass Governor Scott Walker’s staff and associates, something downplayed in the press. Because there has been little news recently, American Thinker wanted to remind people that Wisconsin is an example of how local government officials attempted to abuse their power to discredit and intimidate Republicans. Wisconsin Republicans contended that the Democratic district attorney is distorting campaign finance laws to criminalize ordinary politics.

To recap, District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat, and Milwaukee County prosecutors examined events and activities during Scott Walker's tenure as Milwaukee County executive and as governor, initiating separate criminal investigations. Prosecutors have conducted the probes under the state's "John Doe" statutes that grant extraordinary powers to investigators in order to compel testimony and maintain secrecy. (A “John Doe” is a legal proceeding under Wisconsin law that allows prosecutors, with a judge’s approval, to require complete secrecy from anyone involved. This “gag order” provision, almost unique in American law, effectively disables targets or witnesses from publicly defending themselves or responding to damaging leaks.)

The first John Doe investigation began in 2010, while the second probe was opened in 2012. For five years District Attorney Chisholm, has harassed supporters, staffers, and others connected with Governor Scott Walker through the use of these “John Doe” Laws.

Stuart Taylor Jr. of the American Media Institute reported that Eric O’Keefe was one of the biggest champions of Walker’s legislation curbing public unions. O’Keefe stated that Walker’s budget laws are “the most important state reform in this country because it revives local control of local government, undoing half a century of centralization.”

At the behest of Chisholm, deputies seized business papers, computer equipment, phones, personal letters, and personal financial records while the occupants were restrained under police supervision and denied any due process. Michael Lutz, a retired police officer who worked in the prosecutorial office, says that Chisholm resorted to Gestapo-like tactics, using this investigation to threaten and embarrass people they did not agree with politically.   

Lutz commented to American Thinker, “Chisholm told me not to support any Republicans and that it was his personal duty to stop Governor Walker. His wife is a union steward and was moved to tears when she talks about Act 10. There was a noticeable change in his attitude after Governor Walker was elected and then he became so political, with rumors that Walker would run for president. He has a personal vendetta, with his wife a motivating factor. I think Chisholm is doing it to put a dark light on the governor. It is a weaponization of his office to persecute those with opposing political beliefs.  Even Joe McCarthy did it out in public, but John Chisholm does not have the courage to do even that, and is hiding behind the orders.”

O’Keefe told American Thinker he regarded District Attorney John Chisholm and his cronies “as playground bullies. It was a Democratic abuse of power, targeting me solely for my political activities. The tactics used by Chisholm included obtaining phone records, viewing the activities of Wisconsin’s Conservative groups, seizing people’s personal documents, and raiding people’s homes with floodlights. The left in America has shifted to encourage government employees to use their power against domestic political opponents. As I said in my court filing, they are virtually silencing the political debate by paralyzing their targets. This is similar and ominous to what happened with the Federal government and IRS situation. It is costly in time and money and is just pure intimidation.”

Eighteen months earlier he had won a decision halting the investigation, but Chisholm held so much power he continued the investigation by resifting through the personal property seized and attempting to redefine the original crimes. However, with the July 16th Wisconsin Supreme Court decision, District Attorney John Chisholm was found to have abused his prosecutorial power in the relentless criminal investigation of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and 29 conservative groups. It sided with O’Keefe and ruled that the John Doe investigation must end.

The conclusion reached by the court, “It is fortunate, indeed, for every other citizen of this great State who is interested in the protection of fundamental liberties that the special prosecutor chose as his targets innocent citizens who had both the will and the means to fight the unlimited resources of an unjust prosecution. Further, these brave individuals played a crucial role in presenting this court with an opportunity to re-endorse its commitment to upholding the fundamental right of each and every citizen to engage in lawful political activity and to do so free from the fear of the tyrannical retribution of arbitrary or capricious governmental prosecution. Let one point be clear: our conclusion today ends this unconstitutional John Doe investigation.”

O’Keefe wants to issue a warning.  He feels local government officials use their powers in an attempt to eliminate free speech, and are ruthless in their pursuit of power. He summarized his feelings, “I intend to show America that these abusive tactics were executed with the support of left-wing leaders in Wisconsin. It proves that the radical left is marching us to tyranny, and that it respects no standards in its pursuit of power. If the suffering of Wisconsin families sounds the alarm for our Republic, then their pain will not have been in vain.” 

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews, author interviews, and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.