“your course of conduct in that matter merits criminal investigation for Misconduct in Public Office and related offenses”
We’ve covered the Wisconsin “John Doe” proceeding targeting Governor Scott Walker and dozens of conservative Wisconsin activists many times before. Scroll through the John Doe (WI) tag.
The legal short version is that Milwaukee County prosecutor John Chisholm has been on a years-long investigation of Scott Walker and the conservative movement, claiming there was illegal coordination. A state court judge effectively shut down the investigation finding that there was no legal basis for that claim. A federal district court judge made a similar finding, but that finding was reversed by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals mainly on procedural grounds — that federal courts should not interfere in state court proceedings, finding that the Supreme Court had not yet definitively ruled on whether the alleged conduct at issue, so-called “issues advocacy,” could be regulated.
The political short version is that the John Doe investigation, which seized records before it was shut down, chilled and stifled conservative speech in Wisconsin. The John Doe investigation also has become a political hammer over Scott Walkers’ head, used by his political enemies to try to defeat him at the ballot box. One of those political enemies of Walker, according to a whistleblower who used to work in Chisholm’s office and was friendly with his family, was Chisholm’s wife, a school system union representative furious at Walker’s collective bargaining reform.
Now one of the main targets of the John Doe case, and one of the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit, has fired back at the prosecutors by demanding a criminal investigation of the prosecutors’ alleged political motivations. (Embedded at bottom of post.)
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on September 29, John Doe target strikes back with call for probe of prosecutor:
Striking back at Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a leader of a group that has been investigated for possible campaign finance violations is asking Chisholm to appoint a special prosecutor to determine if he has engaged in misconduct in office.
The move came in a letter dated Friday, just two days after a federal appeals court threw out a legal challenge aimed at stopping the campaign finance probe conducted by Chisholm.
The tossed lawsuit and the request for a special prosecutor both came from Eric O’Keefe, a director of the conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth.
If Chisholm does not agree to seek a special prosecutor within two weeks, O’Keefe wrote, he will attempt to launch a probe by other means, including by going to Gov. Scott Walker, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen or a judge.
In his letter, O’Keefe maintained that Chisholm’s work had helped Mary Burke, the Democrat running against Walker in the Nov. 4 election.
“The result of your investigation has been to silence my organization as well as countless others, prevent them from raising funds, and otherwise interfere with their operations,” O’Keefe wrote. “That is likely a benefit for Ms. Burke’s campaign, and the facts suggest that this may have been your intent all along.”
The letter, embedded below (via the Journal Sentinel) seeks a special prosecutor since Chisholm can’t investigate himself:
As you know, I am a director of the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which your office targeted for investigation, along with 28 other right-of-center organizations, as part of a four-year-long effort to investigate Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
I am writing to notify you that your course of conduct in that matter merits criminal investigation for Misconduct in Public Office and related offenses. In short, Wisconsin law prohibits a district attorney from using the powers and privileges of his office for the financial benefit of himself: his immediate family members. or an organization with which his immediate family members are associated; from using those powers and privileges to obtain an unlawful advantage for third parties—such as political candidates and recall committees; from using information obtained through his official functions for those illegitimate purposes; and from allowing his office to become de facto campaign grounds. Recently, credible factual reports suggest that you may have done all these things. In addition, Wisconsin law prohibits public officers from intentionally soliciting or accepting for performance of a service or duty an amount greater or Jess than is fixed by law, but it is now publicly reported that the special prosecutor you selected for the investigation has accepted no payment for his services in that role.
Milwaukee County is an appropriate forum for an investigation of this matter, but due to the obvious conflict of interest inherent in your position as District Attorney, I request that you petition the Milwaukee County Circuit Court to appoint a special prosecutor in accord witlh Wisconsin Statutes § 978.045. The special prosecutor will have “all the powers of the district attorney,” will not be subject to your oversight, and will have authority to independently review the facts and law to detennine whether prosecution is warranted.
If request that you take this action within two weeks. If you do not act on this request, I intend seek alternative means to pursue justice. See, e.g., Wis. Stat.§§ 968.02(3), 968.26(am), 17.11(1), 165.5
Meanwhile, Stuart Taylor, the journalist who first reported on the whistleblower’s allegations and followed up after the person was attacked, has issued a series of questions about Chisholm’s conduct.
O’Keefe also is talking to conservative media in Wisconsin, via Wisconsin Reporter:
On the eve of the one-year anniversary of sweeping raids in Wisconsin’s politically charged John Doe investigation into conservative activists, Eric O’Keefe, one of the targets of that probe, is going public in a big way.
Speaking at length for the first time O’Keefe, a director of the conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth, tells Wisconsin Reporter he was shocked by the prosecutors’ tactics: predawn, paramilitary-style raids on the homes of conservatives, and the confiscation of their papers and electronic equipment.
“We ran a meticulous political operation; not only did we comply with Wisconsin’s laws — we were over-compliant, as we knew that Kevin Kennedy (director of the state Government Accountability Board) was hostile to WCFG as well as independent political speech in general. So we ran only issue ads — and none pertained to the elections for governor.”
UPDATE 10-3-2014: Last night the Journal Sentinel reported that a new lawsuit on behalf of a conservative group has been filed alleging that the John Doe prosecutors violated conservative groups’ rights.
I have not seen the lawsuit yet, and may go a separate post once I obtain a copy (it’s not on PACER as of this writing). We obtained complaint, it’s posted at WI conservative group seeks court protection from “John Doe” prosecutors.
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