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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 41 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.


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 41 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

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M.D. Kittle