You can find background on the anti-conservative “John Doe” secret investigation in our prior posts.

The gist of the investigation is to try to find unlawful coordination between Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and various conservative activist groups.  As part of the investigation, the subpoenas and secrecy provisions have effective frozen conservative activists out of the political process.

Earlier today a federal court issued a preliminary injunction halting the investigation, as reported at Wisconsin Reporter,

The John Doe investigation into conservatives is dead.

In a monumental victory for targeted conservatives, Judge Rudolph Randa on Tuesday granted a preliminary injunction to stop the politically charged probe, ruling in favor of conservative activist Eric O’Keefe and his Wisconsin Club for growth.

’Keefe and the club in February filed a civil rights lawsuit against Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, two of his assistant DAs, John Doe Special Prosecutor Francis Schmitz, and a shadowy investigator contracted by the Government Accountability Board.

“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,” wrote Randa, federal judge for the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

Randa  further ordered that the plaintiffs in the civil rights case “and others” are “hereby relieved of any and every duty under Wisconsin law to cooperate further with Defendants‘ investigation.”

“Any attempt to obtain compliance by any Defendant or John Doe Judge Gregory Peterson is grounds for a contempt finding by this Court,” he ordered in the 26-page ruling.

An interesting aspect of the ruling was the reliance on the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon case, in holding that the investigation was an attempt to interfere with the targets first amendment rights:

The standard to apply in these cases was recently made clear by the Supreme Court in McCutcheon. Any campaign finance regulation, and any criminal prosecution resulting from the violation thereof, must target activity that results in or has the potential to result in quid pro quo corruption….

It is undisputed that O‘Keefe and the Club engage in issue advocacy, not express advocacy or its functional equivalent. Since § 11.01(16)‘s definition of
―political purposes‖ must be confined to express advocacy, the plaintiffs cannot be and are not subject to Wisconsin‘s campaign finance laws by virtue of their expenditures on issue advocacy….

While the defendants deny that their investigation is motivated by animus towards the plaintiffs‘ conservative viewpoints, it is still unlawful to target the plaintiffs for engaging in vigorous advocacy that is beyond the state‘s regulatory reach….

The plaintiffs have been shut out of the political process merely by association with conservative politicians. This cannot square with the First Amendment and what it was meant to protect.

If this decision holds, it should be the death of this John Doe investigation.


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