Wisconsin Supreme Court Shuts Down Anti-Walker Witch Hunt

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

The incredible abuse of power by Democrat prosecutors in Wisconsin, who staged a witch-hunt against Republicans and Governor Scott Walker that looked like something the villains in the “Hunger Games” novels would pull, has finally been killed off by the state Supreme Court.

Previous Court decisions hobbled the witch hunt, which was conducted under weird “John Doe” protocols that gagged targets from discussing their treatment, and gave prosecutors what they interpreted as a nearly unlimited fishing license to hound conservative groups in search of evidence that would demonstrate illegal collusion with Walker. The investigation has essentially been parked in neutral for a while, with Democrats hopeful that all those late-night raids produced something that would persuade the courts to let it continue.

Those hopes were dashed for good on Thursday, as the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that the state Supreme Court has formally terminated the investigation, although the whole mess may yet end up at the U.S. Supreme Court. Given what the high court has been doing to the rule of law lately, it might be premature to declare this vampire investigation completely dead, but it’s thrashing around and clawing at the stake in its heart:

The court’s action is a major victory for Walker as he pursues the presidency, though one expert said prosecutors could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. No one has been charged in the so-called John Doe probe, Wisconsin’s version of a grand jury investigation where information is tightly controlled, but questions about the investigation have dogged Walker for months.

The case centers on political activity conducted by Wisconsin Club for Growth and other conservative organizations during the 2012 recall, which was spurred by Democrats’ anger over a Walker-authored law that effectively ending collective bargaining for most public workers.

Prosecutors accused Walker and the groups of illegally coordinating their campaign efforts in violation of state law. They denied wrongdoing.

Republicans called the investigation, launched by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat, a partisan witch hunt. Wisconsin Club for Growth and its director, Eric O’Keefe, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit last year seeking to halt the probe, arguing the investigation violates their free speech rights. U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa sided with the club but a federal appellate court later tossed out the lawsuit, saying the issue belonged in state courts.

The club and O’Keefe then turned to the state Supreme Court, which is controlled by a four-justice conservative majority.

Howard Schweber, an associate professor of political science and legal studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said prosecutors could seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court, possibly arguing bias. Lead prosecutor Francis Schmitz in February asked at least two justices to recuse themselves to avoid the appearance of impropriety, but the justices didn’t respond.

Speaking of conflicts of interest, the district attorney is a partisan Democrat whose wife just happened to work for one of the teachers unions that tried so hard to recall Walker, but I’m sure that doesn’t mean anything at all.

All those horrifying dead-of-night raids, blanket subpoenas (which the targets, not being Democrat royalty like Hillary Clinton, actually obeyed) and gag orders that effectively left the targets presumed guilty by the media, and they couldn’t scrape enough enough evidence to charge anyone with anything. They called it a “John Doe” investigation, but we should really call it a “Jon Snow” investigation, because they know nothing.

As Rich Lowry put it at the New York Post in April: “The investigators were, among other things, fishing for campaign-finance violations, on dubious grounds. So, for exercising their First Amendment rights, some targets were denied their First Amendment rights. This is the Bill of Rights, via Kafka and Inspector Javert.”

Even under those rules of engagement, the witch hunt failed at its true purpose, because although conservative groups faced more intimidation than even Obama’s IRS was able to level at Tea Party and pro-life groups, Governor Walker was still re-elected, and is now a top-tier candidate for President in 2016.

Update: The concluding paragraphs of the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision offer an astounding indictment of the John Doe investigation, and salutes the targeted citizens who stood strong against it.

“It is utterly clear that the special prosecutor has employed theories of law that do not exist in order to investigate citizens who were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing,” the court writes.  “In other words, the special prosecutor was the instigator of a ‘perfect storm’ of wrongs that was visited upon the innocent Unnamed Movants and those who dared to associate with them.  It is fortunate, indeed, for every other citizen of this great State who is interested in the protection of fundamental liberties that the special prosecutor chose as his targets innocent citizens who had both the will and the mans to fight the unlimited resources of an unjust prosecution.”