A creepy epilogue to the sordid tale of the Wisconsin Witch Hunt comes from the Wall Street Journal, which notes the out-of-control Democratic investigators were looking at targets beyond the borders of Wisconsin as well, including politicians such as Jeb Bush and Reince Priebus, plus conservative media celebrities like Sean Hannity.
The “John Doe” investigation started as a state-funded, black-bag political operation against Governor Scott Walker.
It had nearly unlimited authority to harass its targets, who were legally gagged from complaining about their treatment, leading to incredible tales of midnight raids against the homes of Wisconsin conservative activists. The nominal goal was to prove that conservative groups in the state were illegally coordinating with Governor Walker’s political operation. The investigation was eventually shut down by federal judges.
The WSJ reports that a lawsuit entitled Eric O’Keefe and Wisconsin Club for Growth v. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board has been filed against state government by some of the targets. According to inside sources, part of the complaint concerns the investigators’ accumulation of “millions of documents, including personal files, emails and bank statements,” many of them taken from individuals who had never been charged with any crime. The John Doe team became quite creative about searching its data trove:
The John Doe team searched the digital cache for information related to their now-discredited theory of campaign-finance coordination, but they didn’t stop there. The Milwaukee District Attorney’s office, run by Democrat John Chisholm,sent GAB staff a spreadsheet of search terms that included prominent national conservatives.
The spreadsheet includes the names and personal email addresses of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, political strategist and Journal contributor Karl Rove, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Republican Party chief Reince Priebus and Fox News host Sean Hannity.
The list also includes search terms for such non-scandalous words as “coordination plan” and “message.” The government snoops created ideological search concepts like “big union bosses” and “big government,” as if such phrases suggest some law-breaking intent. Recall that when the IRS targeted conservative groups for special vetting, it created a “Be On the Lookout” list of key words such as “patriot” and “tea party.”
The Wall Street Journal notes there appears to be no excuse for why the John Doe investigators began targeting these national figures, although previous documents showed prosecutors “discussed looking into Mr. Hannity and Milwaukee radio host Charlie Sykes for ‘potential equal time violations.'”
In another detail that will be familiar to students of the IRS scandal, the WSJ notes that Wisconsin’s witch hunters were very interested in obtaining donor lists from targeted corporations, which can not only provide additional targets for politicized investigations, but also creates an atmosphere of intimidation that makes people afraid to donate.
“The scope of these searches is breathtaking and shows how easily the liberal obsession with campaign ‘coordination’ turns into partisan score-settling,” the Journal argues. “If Republican office-holders had tried something like this, liberals would be shouting about a vast domestic spying operation.”
And if a Republican Administration had tried something like the IRS targeting of Tea Party and pro-life groups, you’d need director Michael Bay and a $100 million budget to dramatize the backlash.