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Fed District Court enjoins Wisconsin “John Doe” anti-conservative investigation

Fed District Court enjoins Wisconsin “John Doe” anti-conservative investigation

Cites recent Supreme Court McCutcheon decision in finding alleged conduct beyond the permissible scope of Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws.

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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Talk about a smackdown. Wow. And HooRah Judge Randa. He gives me hope that sanity may survive in the US judicial system after all.

    randian in reply to Daiwa. | May 7, 2014 at 12:38 am

    SCOTUS’ rejection of every concealed carry case coming its way does not give he hope, nor does the federal judiciary’s condoning of the EPA’s use of consent decrees to make policy decisions without a grant of authority by Congress.

      Daiwa in reply to randian. | May 7, 2014 at 12:06 pm

      Only hope that it may survive in some corners of the judicial system. The uneven nature of judge intellect means mistakes will still be made but this at least opens the door to common-sense common law occasionally triumphing over juridical hairsplitting.

Further, this whole John Doe concept should be banned for any purpose. Along with civil forfeiture.

stevewhitemd | May 6, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Excellent decision and one that, if upheld, will have far reaching implications. So does the Milwaukee DA appeal and risk having this upheld by the Circuit Court?

great unknown | May 6, 2014 at 10:19 pm

So the Milwaukee DA and Judge Gregory Peterson ignore this, continue coercive actions, and are held in contempt by Judge Randa. And then we wait for the DOJ’s stable of honest and ethical federal prosecutors to bring them to trial. Ha, ha.

Henry Hawkins | May 6, 2014 at 10:58 pm

One huge, cynical, agenda-driven fishing expedition, but I like what it says about the desperation felt by the liberal opposition.

Scott Walker has killed the beast that feeds the Democrat Party in Wisconsin and it’s a model that can work in just about any state, if it has the leaders to pursue it.

Walker remains on my short list for 2016.

    Scott Walker in 2016 would be a better choice than someone like Rand Paul.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Henry Hawkins. | May 7, 2014 at 1:24 am

    Mine, too. He talks softly and carries a big stick with “‘rat eradicator” written on it.

    This is a refreshing win given the unrelenting onslaught from ‘rats and this vicious, vile administration against all Americans.

      Henry Hawkins in reply to JackRussellTerrierist. | May 7, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      What I like about Walker is that he took up the fight, won the fight, won the ‘re’-fight (recall), and continues to fight.

      I like that his victories were not merely political, for himself, or pyrrhic, but out-and-out victories which led directly to huge benefits for the citizens of his state.

      Walker fights and wins on conservative issues better than other governors and against far greater odds than other governors. Senators may talk about what fights they’ll take up and win, but Walker has already walked the walk – in a deep blue state.

      Imagine this line-up:

      President Scott Walker
      Vice President Sue Martinez
      Senate Majority Leader Ted Cruz
      House Speaker Marsha Blackburn

    Juba Doobai! in reply to Henry Hawkins. | May 7, 2014 at 9:12 am

    Palin heads my short list with Walker right behind.

JackRussellTerrierist | May 7, 2014 at 1:49 am

I’m sure I needn’t point out that the Milwaukee Co. prosecutor is a ‘rat, according to Wiki.

This is all just an effort to choke off funding for Walker’s campaign and that of any other ‘pub that won’t play ball with them.

I just got an email yesterday saying Walker was vulnerable and was running “neck to neck” with his opponent. I don’t know if that was hyperbole to get donations, or is a fact. You know the unions and other left organizations are going to do everything possible to unseat him.

The left has tied up the process for years, they knew that it was not legal but to the liberals that is not a problem.
Criminal prosicution should be considered for all three of those gentlemen, and removal from office is the least that they should suffer for being the shills for their party and the union thugs.