Outrageous 'John Doe' prosecution of Scott Walker supporters in Wisconsin ends

An outrageous abuse of prosecutorial power for political purposes took place in Wisconsin, and now the perpetrators are saying, in effect, “Never mind” after the object of their vendetta, Scott Walker, was re-elected.  In a so-called “John Doe prosecution,” midnight SWAT team raids were conducted, terrorizing conservatives, based on a legal theory that, after Election Day, is now termed “indefensible” by the very party that used it.

The Wisconsin Reporter, which has covered this outrage like nobody else (143 reports and counting), explains the very complex legal maneuvering.  M.D. Kittle writes:

In a court filing that one constitutional law expert calls a “stunning reversal,” the Government Accountability Board appears to concede that the “legal theory” driving the secret John Doe investigation into Wisconsin conservatives is legally “indefensible.”

joint motion filed by both parties on Election Day in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee stipulates that a court-issued injunction preventing the accountability board and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm from enforcing a constitutionally suspect section of Wisconsin campaign finance law will remain in force.

The agreement also halts further proceedings before U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa, while Milwaukee-based Citizens for Responsible Government Advocates, a conservative 501(c)(4) group, petitions the state Supreme Court to hear the case.

A constitutional law expert tells Wisconsin Reporter that the GAB and the district attorney have essentially “rolled over” on the merits of CRGA’s case, and that the accountability board and the DA are coming to terms with the fact that their interpretation of state campaign finance law is indefensible.

“Really this is just stunning,” said the legal expert, who asked to remain anonymous due to his proximity to the case. “A couple of months ago this is the legal theory that John Chisholm was defending to the hilt. At this point, the state has rolled over on the issue and agreed that their own conduct must be enjoined.”

Chisholm, a Democrat, two of his assistant DAs, a special prosecutor and a special investigator contracted by the GAB, were defendants in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by conservative targets of a series of politically charged John Doe investigations spanning four years.

The probe has featured predawn, paramilitary-style raids on the homes of conservative targets and the issuance of scores of subpoenas in the prosecution’s pursuit of campaign finance violations.

The DA’s case against conservatives hinged on an unusual – as of Tuesday, indefensible – reading of state campaign law: Chisholm has tried to argue that any political speech (for example, a television ad supporting lower taxes) that might produce support for a specific candidate can be regulated if he can find evidence that the speakers coordinated with the candidate.

The use of intimidating tactics like SWAT team raids against political opponents amounts to legal terrorism, and doing so on the basis of a theory that is – once the goal of defeating the opponents has been lost – admitted to be indefensible ought to be a crime.  But in this case, federal courts, often anxious to step in and right wrongs committed by state authorities, have punted the matter back to Wisconsin courts.

A terrifying pattern has emerged in recent years, in which politicized prosecutors bring flimsy cases against Republicans.  This is how Ted Stevens was defeated in his re-election for the U.S. Senate on the basis of an indictment brought in a week before the election, and then later thrown out of court because prosecutors concealed exculpatory evidence.  The federal prosecutors who did this thereby provided the 60th vote in the Senate for passing Obamacare, and yet they were never punished under Eric Holder’s DoJ leadership.  Then there is Tom Delay, prosecuted by Travis County DA Ronnie Dugger on a bogus legal theory of “money laundering” that was also eventually thrown out after Delay’s political career was destroyed.  And again in Travis County (Austin), Texas, Governor Rick Perry has been prosecuted under another bogus, indefensible theory.

This reign of political terror will not end until perpetrators find themselves behind bars.

Perhaps it is time for the Senate Judiciary Committee next year to launch hearings on the matter.

Hat tip: Clarice Feldman