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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter accused of harassing “John Doe” whistleblower

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter accused of harassing “John Doe” whistleblower

“persistent door-bell ringing and heavy knocks awakened and frightened the source’s sleeping 12-year-old daughter,” according to outed whistleblower.

In our post on September 9, we asked Was Prosecutor’s union-operative wife behind “John Doe” investigation of Scott Walker?.

That post was based on a report by the well-regarded legal reporter Stuart Taylor about anti-Scott Walker political bias in the office of Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm, who has led the “John Doe” investigations against Walker and a wide-range of conservative activists in Wisconsin.

In his report, District attorney’s wife drove case against Wis. Gov. Walker, insider says, Taylor reported, among other things:

…. Walker became a national figure in 2011, when his “Budget Repair” bill cut state spending and sharply curbed public employee unions — perhaps the biggest reversal of public union power in U.S. history. Conservatives were delighted and liberals alarmed.

Now a longtime Chisholm subordinate reveals for the first time in this article that the district attorney may have had personal motivations for his investigation. Chisholm told him and others that Chisholm’s wife, Colleen, a teacher’s union shop steward at St. Francis high school, a public school near Milwaukee, had been repeatedly moved to tears by Walker’s anti-union policies in 2011, according to the former staff prosecutor in Chisholm’s office. Chisholm said in the presence of the former prosecutor that his wife “frequently cried when discussing the topic of the union disbanding and the effect it would have on the people involved … She took it personally.”

The reaction to Taylor’s report was furious and aggressive, but from an unlikely source: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which not only outed Taylor’s confidential source, but personally attacked the source in a detailed column by reporter/columnist Daniel Bice, Source who accused Chisholm of vendetta has troubled past.

When I first read Bice’s column, the two things struck me.

First, Bice seemed more concerned with outing Taylor’s confidential source than exploring the alleged bias behind the Walker “John Doe” proceedings. That would be consistent with the Journal Sentinel’s cheerleading for the John Doe investigations of Walker to continue.

It’s not unheard of for reporters to try to out other reporter’s confidential sources — think of all the attempts to identify “Deep Throat” in the Washington Post’s Watergate coverage. But considering that the Journal Sentinel has relied on confidential leaks from the prosecutor’s office for its coverage of the John Doe cases, it seems more than a bit odd for the Journal Sentinel to be so heavily focused on identifying other reporter’s confidential sources.

Second, the attack on the confidential source seemed unusually personal, digging up long-ago alleged personal problems in the source’s police career including a shooting he was involved in for which the source was exonerated of wrongdoing.

In a follow up post, Taylor describes how Bice allegedly crossed a line, reportedly harassing and confronting Taylor’s source, Decorated Wis. cop says he paid dearly for blowing whistle on DA’s crusade against Gov. Walker. If accurate, Bice crossed a line:

[Our] confidential source was a former prosecutor in Chisholm’s office who feared his reputation and his law practice would suffer if he were unmasked.

The district attorney’s staff launched a Nixon-style “mole hunt” to find the anonymous source, a Journal Sentinel columnist said, and was annoyed that the description of the confidential source wasn’t precise enough to identify him. The staff developed a list of roughly a dozen suspects, the columnist said. The Journal Sentinel never reported this secret search.

The feared retaliation was not long in coming. The Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice, whose “political watchdog” column is titled “No Quarter,” appeared after dark at the source’s home on Sept. 11. Bice’s persistent door-bell ringing and heavy knocks awakened and frightened the source’s sleeping 12-year-old daughter, he said. The noise was so loud that a neighbor came out to investigate the din, he said.

When the source, a decorated and disabled-in-the-line-of-duty police officer, Michael Lutz, came to the door, he opened it a crack to hear Bice demand to know if he was the person quoted in the story. He did not deny it and speaks exclusively on the record in this story for the first time.

Taylor then goes on with a further interview with the source refuting many of the personal attacks on the source, and reiterating his claims of political bias as the motivation for the John Doe investigations and for the Journal Sentinel’s coverage:

Critics of the Journal Sentinel’s coverage of Chisholm’s investigation of Walker, his staff and his allies have long complained of what they call biased reporting and commentary, especially by Bice, overseen by Managing Editor George Stanley.

“Dan Bice and the Journal Sentinel have abandoned journalistic standards in covering the long-running investigation of Gov. Scott Walker, his staff, and allied conservative advocacy groups,” said George Mitchell, a former journalist who worked for former U.S. Rep. Les Aspin and former Wisconsin Gov. Pat Lucey – both Democrats.

“Bice and the paper have relied heavily on material that originated from illegal leaks. They have smeared numerous innocent people who were barred by secrecy orders from responding to rumors and leaks. They have dishonestly portrayed completely legal and widespread political conduct. The list goes on. It is long.”

Lutz says he has no animus toward Chisholm, adding he gave $200 last month for a Chisholm campaign fundraiser. He has visited the Chisholms’ home several times and gone to dinners, after-work functions, and other outings with one or both of them over the years.

As to the effect of the Journal Sentinel campaign to discredit him, Lutz said in an email:

“I have relocated my kids to prevent them from being brought to tears by any more J-S reporters and to protect them from the onslaught that has already begun. All for telling the truth.”

As of this writing, neither Bice nor the Journal Sentinel has published a response to these latest reports. We will link to their responses if and when published.

At the end of my prior post, I stated:

At a minimum, there needs to be a criminal investigation of how the John Doe assault on Walker and conservatives was launched and whether politics was the motivation.

That still strikes me as right.

Update 9-22-2014: I still haven’t seen a column from Bice on the issue, but he did get into an Twitter exchange wherein he admitted the late night visit, but denied the part about scaring the daughter or banging so loud that the neighbor was alerted.


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“As a former LEO and prosecutor, I have many enemies in the criminal community. As a reasonable person trying to protect his family, this incident had all the signs of a criminal break-in and I employed deadly force as permitted by law.”

>>The reaction to Taylor’s report was furious and aggressive, but from an unlikely source: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel<<

Are you kidding me? I live in south-eastern Wisconsin and the Journal Sentinel is exactly the place where I expect someone to carry water for Chisholm and Wisconsin Democrats in general. Except for a few talk radio hosts like Mark Belling the media is decidedly supportive of Democrats.

These people disgust me.

That officer deserves thanks, not harassment.

Is it possible for a conservative district attorney in an outlying, conservative county to start a “John Doe” investigation on the Journal-Sentinel editors and reporters, the Milwaukee district attorney and their team?

I’d rather guess that this “turn-about is fair play” wouldn’t be received well…

Confidence in news reporting is at an all-time low.

Scum like Bice are one reason why.