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Will Wisconsin’s own ‘Miserable’ inspector jail conservative activist for speaking out about Dem probe?

By   /   November 17, 2013  /   No Comments

Part 10 of 112 in the series Wisconsin's Secret War

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. – Political activist Eric O’Keefe told the Wall Street Journal he’d been subpoenaed in a Democrat-led John Doe investigation of Wisconsin conservatives.

That simple act of speech could land O’Keefe, director of conservative advocacy group Wisconsin Club for Growth, in jail. Under Wisconsin law, individuals who violate the state’s John Doe secrecy oath may be held in contempt of court.

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TARGET SPEAKS OUT: Conservative activist Eric O’Keefe, at the risk of his freedom, is speaking out about a Democrat-led investigation into conservatives organizations.

A legal expert familiar with the investigation says chances are good Bruce Landgraf, the Milwaukee County assistant district attorney who launched the investigation, will go after O’Keefe.

“(The prosecutor) wants to conduct his program without any interference. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he (Landgraf) acted aggressively,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

Multiple sources told Wisconsin Reporter that Landgraf, a top prosecutor in the office of John Chisholm, Milwaukee County’s Democrat district attorney, has shown himself ready to bully and even flout the law in pursuit of political targets. In his previous use of the John Doe law to target conservatives, Landgraf put two men in jail for refusing to be strong-armed into testifying.

“Except for the fact that he’s willing to break the law, (Landgraf is) something of an Inspector Javert,” said a source, referring to the ruthless policeman in Les Miserables.

Landgraf is being sued by Rice Lake Harley-Davidson dealer Christopher Brekken for false imprisonment and abuse of process in the fall of 2010. In that politically charged John Doe, Landgraf targeted former aides and associates of Gov. Scott Walker when Walker was Milwaukee County executive.

The judge in that investigation issued a subpoena on the prosecution’s request and later ordered Brekken arrested and jailed because he would not turn over the credit card information of a man eventually convicted in the probe. Ironically, submitting to the DA’s demand for credit card information from his motorcycle dealership would have exposed Brekken to prosecution under a separate Wisconsin law that prohibits retailers from revealing confidential credit card information.

“I don’t know whether (Landgraf) is venal, lazy or incompetent, but I suspect it’s all of the above,” said the legal expert, who has followed Landgraf’s prosecutions in Milwaukee County.

Then there was the case of Andrew P. Jensen, the commercial real estate broker locked up for refusing to cooperate with the first Doe. Jensen was quietly exonerated several months later.

Landgraf, because of the secrecy order, has declined to comment on the John Doe investigations.

Wisconsin Reporter has reported the current probe requires responses “in person or in writing” from “about 100 people.” But sources said O’Keefe and other targets of the investigation have no intention of laying down for what they see as a political witch hunt.

“If he (Landgraf) doesn’t like to be challenged, he’s in for a very unpleasant time. He’s got a tiger by the tail, and he’s not up to it,” said a source close to the investigation.

As Wisconsin Reporter first reported last month, the so-called John Doe investigation launched in early 2012 by the Democrat-led Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office has  targeted state conservatives and such national groups as Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth and the Republican Governors Association, and, we now learn, Walker’s campaign.

One source with knowledge of the investigation says the ultimate goal is to bring down Walker, the bane of Wisconsin liberals.

Though gagged by provisions of subpoenas sought by Landgraf and others, several sources have told Wisconsin Reporter the manifold legal attack on nonprofit political organizations has included after-hours visits to homes and offices; confiscated equipment and files; and demands for phone, email and other records. The sources have asked to remain anonymous due to their proximity to the investigation or to people connected to it.

The Wall Street Journal opinion piece added color to Wisconsin Reporter’s accounts. O’Keefe told the Journal he received his subpoena in early October. He said that at least three of targets of the investigation had their homes raided at dawn.

O’Keefe, who formerly served as chairman and CEO of the conservative Sam Adams Alliance, a financial supporter of Wisconsin Reporter parent, the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, did not respond to Wisconsin Reporter’s requests for comment.

O’Keefe told the Wall Street Journal that the flurry of subpoenas “froze my communications and frightened many allies and vendors of the pro-taxpayer political movement in Wisconsin and across the country.”

Ultimately, said a legal expert who spoke to Wisconsin Reporter on condition of anonymity, the John Doe process will be its own punishment.

“If it goes on, leaked and used irresponsibly in the 2014 campaign, the only way to get relief from that impact on constitutionally protected activity is to respond aggressively,” the source said.

Another source, a Republican official close to targets in the probe, tells Wisconsin Reporter that his friends have simply stopped talking.

“They’re tighter than a drum,” the source said.

And, as the Wall Street Journal piece notes, political silence may be exactly what Democrats driving this latest John Doe case are hoping for.

That fact is not lost on inner-circle Republicans.

“It’s frustrating,” a Republican source said. “The longer this drags on, the longer it’s going to play into the (2014) re-election (of Walker). It’s stifling any kind of talk, and I imagine it’s difficult to raise money right now … It’s not good for anybody.”

Contact M.D. Kittle at mkittle@wisconsinreporter.com

 

Part of 112 in the series Wisconsin's Secret War
  1. Sources: Secret probe targeting conservatives is abuse of prosecutorial powers
  2. Scary! Phantom prosecutor in Dems’ war on conservatives disappears inside courthouse
  3. EXCLUSIVE: Judge in Democrat-led John Doe probe recuses herself
  4. Democrats’ ‘intelligence-gathering’ spreads in Wisconsin
  5. Democrats tap anti-terror expert to head secret probe of Wisconsin conservatives
  6. Sheriff Clarke: John Doe case shows Milwaukee DA is ‘weaponized for political purposes’
  7. Clarke: John Doe into conservatives ‘unbridled,’ ‘dangerous’ and ‘tainted’
  8. Sources: New judge named in Democrat-led secret probe
  9. Vendetta justice? Criticism growing about John Doe prosecutor Bruce Landgraf
  10. Will Wisconsin’s own ‘Miserable’ inspector jail conservative activist for speaking out about Dem probe?
  11. Conservative targets bring in big guns to Democrat-led John Doe fight
  12. ‘Dangerous’ game: Former FEC official blasts Democrats’ secret investigation of conservative groups
  13. Center for Media and Democracy: Liberals are morally superior
  14. Wisconsin Dems suddenly support political investigations
  15. WI Republican attorney general to represent judges in Democrat-led John Doe probe
  16. Republicans speak out about silent John Doe targeting conservatives
  17. Biggest secret in John Doe may be just how judges and special prosecutors are selected
  18. WSJ: John Doe judge deals body blow to secret probe targeting conservatives
  19. Vos: Wait until John Doe in ‘rearview mirror’ before revisiting law
  20. Lawsuits looming in Wisconsin’s crumbling John Doe probe?
  21. Conservative to Democrat prosecutors: Shut down secret political probe or face civil rights lawsuit
  22. John Doe target O’Keefe taking on IRS, too
  23. Lawmaker: Wisconsin’s John Doe like Christie’s ‘Bridgegate’
  24. Target files civil rights lawsuit against Wisconsin’s John Doe prosecutors
  25. Disparate treatment: Civil rights lawsuit claims conservative speech trampled
  26. Liberal group looking to take Wisconsin’s John Doe national
  27. John Doe judge: ‘Results of the John Doe speak for themselves’
  28. John Doe special prosecutor appeals judge’s ruling quashing subpoenas
  29. John Doe prosecutor pushed for brain-damaged man’s conviction in ATF debacle
  30. Conservatives counterpunch John Doe prosecutors’ move to stall injunction
  31. Shadowy John Doe investigator invokes federalism in civil rights lawsuit
  32. John Doe prosecutors wanted higher-priced lawyers, source says
  33. Secret agent Dean Nickel’s defense: ‘Dean Nickel is not responsible’
  34. D’oh! John Doe prosecutors claim secrecy protection – after filing secret documents
  35. Recusal in John Doe case raises questions of fairness, purpose
  36. Absolute immunity makes it tough to prosecute the prosecutors of John Doe
  37. Poll suggests Dems’ big ‘secret’ weapon against Walker is backfiring
  38. ‘Easy target’: Kelly Rindfleisch breaks silence about John Doe probe
  39. SCOTUS ruling on campaign finance shows abuse of John Doe, targets say
  40. Nobody will say what John Doe’s shadow man did, but taxpayers are paying his legal bill
  41. Judge denies John Doe prosecutors’ move to dismiss civil rights suit
  42. Civil rights expert: John Doe law is ‘un-American,’ like something from ‘Nazi Germany’
  43. Target: John Doe prosecutors making up campaign law as they go along
  44. John Doe, as it is being used, must go, WI senator says
  45. John Doe target says prosecutors latest move another delay tactic
  46. John Doe prosecutors sound defensive in latest court filings
  47. Federal judge denies John Doe prosecutors’ motion to stall civil rights case
  48. Media coalition asks judge to open sealed John Doe documents
  49. Are John Doe prosecutors sweating out federal judge’s decision?
  50. John Doe is dead: Judge stops WI prosecutors’ probe into conservatives
  51. This is what the Fourth Amendment looks like?
  52. What’s next for now-defunct John Doe probe?
  53. Appeals court stalls judge’s order halting John Doe probe
  54. Federal judge’s ruling could open up sealed John Doe records
  55. Federal judge orders John Doe probe shut down again
  56. Lawmakers call for review of GAB’s secret John Doe activities, funds
  57. Lawyers, lawyers everywhere and other dispatches from John Doe Land
  58. Secret’s out: The world is beginning to learn more about WI’s John Doe
  59. Still their little secret? Questions remain on John Doe gag order
  60. Appeals Court declares portions of Wisconsin campaign finance law unconstitutional
  61. John Doe prosecutors suddenly support opening sealed court records
  62. Expert: It’s as if GAB decided ‘Citizens United didn’t exist’
  63. John Doe prosecutors voice phony outrage, legal source says
  64. GAB still reviewing court ruling declaring WI campaign finance law unconstitutional
  65. State Farm still doesn’t want to cover John Doe prosecutor’s legal bills
  66. For the Walker-hating left, John Doe is ‘Mission Accomplished’
  67. Sources: No urgency in WI Supreme Court on John Doe
  68. Would Walker settlement with John Doe prosecutors be a deal with the devil?
  69. Contempt questions surround reported John Doe deal talks
  70. Walker’s John Doe response raises more questions than answers
  71. Sources: Attorney General passes on defending GAB in John Doe cases
  72. Attorney to judge: Don’t let John Doe prosecutor ‘moot’ injunction
  73. John Doe targets sue Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board
  74. Federal judge says his order halting John Doe probe should be clear to prosecutor
  75. John Doe special prosecutor’s bill still shrouded in secrecy
  76. ‘Are these kind of armed pre-dawn raids standard operating procedure?’
  77. John Doe special prosecutor obeys judge’s order
  78. ‘Never-ending’ John Doe never ended, WSJ reports
  79. Appeals court upholds judge’s order shutting down John Doe probe
  80. O’Keefe keeps collecting big wins in John Doe lawsuit
  81. John Doe I judge says he’s not responsible for John Doe II
  82. Will taxpayers have to pay for frivolity of John Doe prosecutors?
  83. John Doe prosecutors jump back into the dark?
  84. What about those prosecutors? Questions surround other John Doe DAs
  85. Humiliated in court, WI Dems take their anti-conservative John Doe probe to the media
  86. Federal judge blasts John Doe prosecutors – again – as he denies records release
  87. Right on cue: Document dump fuels anti-Walker donation drive
  88. Wall Street Journal points out ‘disgrace’ of mainstream John Doe reporting
  89. Expert: John Doe raids raise ‘troubling’ Fourth Amendment questions
  90. Kelly Rindfleisch tells conservatives, ‘Don’t back down’
  91. Mainstream media forced to walk back Walker ‘criminal scheme’ narrative
  92. John Doe prosecutors engaged in premature justification, conservatives say
  93. Is John Doe probe a case of a mini NSA in Wisconsin?
  94. AG opinion means accountability board’s John Doe secrets are safe — for now
  95. Senator asks attorney general to compel GAB to open up its books
  96. GAB now playing secrets in state John Doe lawsuit
  97. Will John Doe prosecutors launch lengthy probe against Trek Bicycle?
  98. John Doe prosecutors engaged in war of words — lots and lots of words
  99. Judge denies conservatives’ request to add GAB to civil rights lawsuit
  100. Oral arguments set in John Doe prosecutors’ appeal
  101. In John Doe Land, the left doesn’t illegally coordinate
  102. John Doe document blitz must have broken mainstream media’s heart
  103. Senator: Looks like accountability board is hiding something
  104. Kelly Rindfleisch appeal to test validity of John Doe digital searches
  105. Conservatives in John Doe battle know disclosure comes with a heavy price
  106. Appeals court orders release of some John Doe documents
  107. Taxpayers on the hook up to $25,000 for GAB’s legal maneuvers
  108. Overheated media erroneously bring back Walker ‘criminal scheme’ theme
  109. ‘Retaliation’: Docs show state prosecutors launched mini-NSA probe of WI conservatives
  110. John Doe prosecutors take desperate, unethical slap
  111. Walker ‘smoking gun’ story has tiny glaring flaw
  112. Wisconsin prosecutors aim to shut down conservatives

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Kittle is a 25-year veteran of radio, newspaper and online journalism. In July 2011, Kittle joined Watchdog.org as bureau chief for Wisconsin Reporter. He has spent much of the past three years covering the seismic political changes taking place in the Badger State. Last year, Kittle joined Watchdog’s national reporting team, covering everything from energy policy to governmental assaults on civil rights. Beyond being published in Wisconsin’s daily newspapers and in multimedia news outlets, Kittle’s work has appeared on Fox News, and in Human Events, Reason Magazine, Newsmax and Town Hall. His special investigation into a politically charged John Doe probe, “Wisconsin’s Secret War,” was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze. Kittle has made several appearances on Fox News, including “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren. He serves as weekly politics commentator for Lake 96.1 FM in Lake Geneva, and WRJN-AM 1400 in Racine. His resume includes multiple awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, Wisconsin Broadcast Association and other journalism associations. Contact Kittle at mkittle@watchdog.org.