Fallout from the Wisconsin witch hunt

As John Sexton related on Friday, the Justice Department hasn’t been able to find anything liking New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to the “Bridgegate” scandal (and you know Eric Holder’s people were very, very keen to find such a linkage.)  It remains to be seen how the bridge affair will affect Christie’s political future, which may or may not include a run at the White House.  Some think his vindication after such intense media coverage will make the story a net plus for him, at least among swing voters.  Others wonder if the special sauce from even a nothingburger scandal might have stained him; not only will the media be sure to remind everyone he was “embattled” by the story – and some sort of wheezy partisan investigation will still be limping along in the background of New Jersey politics through the end of 2016 – but voters may think he bears some lingering managerial responsibility for the people who were behind closing those bridge lanes, even though Christie acted quickly and decisively once the story broke.

The nothingburger non-scandal that might have even more fallout has gotten a lot less coverage than Bridgegate.  In Wisconsin, the corrupt Democrat-union machine went after Governor Scott Walker with a vengeance, as a partisan prosecutor launched a multi-year “John Doe” investigation of the entire Wisconsin conservative community, desperately trying to find some evidence that Walker violated campaign-finance laws.  (Given the way union bosses own the Democrat Party in the state lock, stock, and barrel – to the point where they once snapped their fingers and made the entire Democrat caucus in the legislature abandon their duties and flee the state to avoid tough votes – the spectacle of SWAT teams raiding the homes of conservative activists to look for evidence they might have improperly coordinated with Walker’s campaign is darkly comical.)  

Under the curious “John Doe” rules in Wisconsin, District Attorney John Chisholm – whose wife just happens to be wrapped up with the unions, imagine that! – was able to harass conservatives in the state for years while legally barring them from discussing the persecution.  As with Bridgegate, it all came to nothing in the end – well, the conditional end, since a very displeased federal judge declared the whole circus an “unconstitutional” violation of free speech and shut it down, but Wisconsin Democrats are trying to get it rolling again – but even more damage has been done… not to Walker himself, but more crucially to the people who supported him through Big Labor’s attempts to crush his successful administration with recall votes.  They’ve been pretty much run out of Wisconsin politics by Chisholm’s inquisition, and it shows, because a weak Democrat candidate – the hapless Mary Burke, just this week caught plagiarizing her “jobs plan” from a bunch of previous losers, and before that stuck on stage while the odious Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz compared Walker’s policies to the physical beating of women – has been running neck-and-neck against Walker.  

It’s the IRS scandal all over again, in which the power of government is twisted by partisans into a vote-suppression operation, of the sort that would fill the streets with rioters if any Republican official ever dared use the technique against any Democrat group.  Stuart Taylor, at Legal Newsline, has been all over the Wisconsin Witch Hunt as it unravels.  Here’s another charming bit of fallout: some good old-fashioned whistleblower intimidation.

After missing a scoop on Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm’s long-running investigation into Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writers, along with the district attorney’s staff, hunted down the key source who had asked for anonymity, fearing retaliation.

That story, produced by the American Media Institute and published by Legal Newsline last week, said that the district attorney’s wife was a teachers union shop steward, had taken part in demonstrations against the Republican governor’s proposal to curb public employee unions and was repeatedly moved to tears by governor’s legislative crusade.

Chisholm, a Democrat, said privately that it was his “personal duty to stop Walker,” the confidential source said.

AMI’s 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.

Well, of course they didn’t.  They eventually found the source, “a decorated and disabled-in-the-line-of-duty police officer, Michael Lutz,” and sent a report to beat his door down on the night of September 11, scaring the heck out of his 12-year-old daughter and bringing a neighbor over to investigate the commotion.  The reporter got an interview, made sure to splash Lutz’s identity all over local media, and went to work on him with a few biographical edits, working to portray him as a hot-tempered nut with a grudge against Chisholm.  There are details of the resulting hit piece over at Legal NewsLine, plus some stern criticism of the report – and the Wisconsin witch hunt itself – from prominent Wisconsin Democrats, including former Governor Pat Lucey.  Lutz says he’s already feeling the repercussions:

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.”

The consequences for telling that truth are already being felt, Lutz writes. “My law practice … is over in MKE [Milwaukee]. There is no doubt, as one person has put it, that I am already blacklisted. . . . . Supporting the family will be difficult. Of course, it has been a huge undertaking to go through 4 surgeries, take care of 2 children, drive back and forth to Madison daily in order to get my law license … only to be persecuted for simply telling the truth.”

In response to suggestions by the Journal Sentinel that Lutz must not be telling the truth because no other current or former employee of the district attorney’s office has corroborated his allegations, Lutz says: “No one in the current DA’s office or any practicing attorney in Milwaukee would dare speak up against Chisholm or even mention a suggestion of partisanship. Their [private] practice would be killed in Milwaukee. Mine is finished but I can still rely on my police pension.”

Scott Walker is a successful Republican governor who made conservative policies work in a blue state whose liberal establishment – as you can see from this story and pretty much everything that happened since the day Walker entered the governor’s mansion – is ready to pull out all the stops to defend itself.  He’s a major threat to Democrats if he becomes a national figure.  The last chance to prevent that is defeating him in the 2014 gubernatorial election, a loss the national media will happily portray as the repudiation of everything he’s ever done, no matter how narrow his loss might be, or what the Democrat establishment had to do to beat him.  They’re especially keen to make sure his labor reforms are not emulated in other states.

The last few polls show Walker opening a small lead over Burke, but it’s only three or four points at best.  It could be a result of standard campaign maneuvering – debates, campaign ads, and such.  It could be a result of conservatives intimidated by the witch hunt returning to the fray.  Burke’s recent reversals might have shaken swing voters away from her – she went into hiding after Wasserman Schultz’s nauseating attacks on Walker, and of course the media would never dream of making her denounce the DNC chair, but the recent spate of stories about growing Democrat discontent with Wasserman Schultz make me wonder if they’ve got internal polling that says she damaged their effort in Wisconsin.  And maybe, just maybe, Wisconsin voters are considering the sordid history of the “John Doe” investigation and thinking it’s a bad idea to put people like that in charge of the state government.

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