By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON, Wis. — Seven years ago, Wisconsin Democrats cried foul when a Republican prosecutor’s “politically motivated” probe landed an innocent woman in jail.
Funny how times change.
Today, Democrats are cheering a Democrat-led investigation into conservative groups, an investigation that multiple sources say is aimed at interrupting Gov. Scott Walker’s 2014 re-election campaign. Some, including Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke, have called it “a political witch-hunt.”
Reported dawn raids at the homes of conservatives, confiscations of files, computers, phone records and email?
“You can assume they’re finding serious acts of wrongdoing,” state Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Daniel Bice in a piece headlined “Conservatives take bull by the horns in latest John Doe probe.”
As Bice wrote, “Democrats suggest that these conservative groups and GOP campaigns are going on the attack because they want to prevent investigators from digging too deeply into their fundraising and spending during the recall elections. They are, in other words, running scared.”
But when it comes to liberals’ on Wisconsin’s latest John Doe investigation, the past apparently isn’t prologue.
Perhaps they have forgotten about Steven Biskupic.
The former U.S. attorney became the subject of a U.S. Department of Justice review after an appeals court tossed out the conviction of a mid-level state government employee.
Democrats declared the 2006 prosecution of Georgia Thompson on a charge of rigging state contracts was driven by politics, and that Biskupic, appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, was used to embarrass then-Gov. Jim Doyle, Democrat, in his re-election bid.
“You can’t tell me it was not politically motivated,” John Burr, a former assistant district attorney in Democrat-led Dane County District Attorney’s office and past president of the state prosecutors union, told the Isthmus, a left-leaning Madison publication, at the time. “The powers that be over there thought they were going to go all the way to the governor.”
“When they didn’t find anything, they were stuck with it. It blew up in their faces,” Burr said of Biskupic’s office.
Russ Decker, former state Senate Democrat leader, accused Biskupic of “going after a political agenda.”
The liberal Capital Times said charging Thompson “seemed more politically convenient than legally sound.” It seemed to the Madison publication that Biskupic was “trying to embarrass Jim Doyle” amid the 2006 gubernatorial campaign.
And the list of recriminations goes on.
You could argue — and Democrats certainly did — that Biskupic made a federal case out of Thompson, a Wisconsin Department of Administration employee tasked with putting the state’s travel account up for competitive bid.
Thompson reportedly lost her home and spent four months of an 18-month sentence in prison after a jury found her guilty of awarding the state travel contract to Adelman Travel.
Biskupic charged that the Wisconsin travel agency got the contract because its CEO contributed to Doyle’s campaign war chest.
Four months after she reported to prison, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Thompson’s conviction and took the rare step of releasing her before the three-judge panel had even written up its ruling. One appeals court judge said Biskupic’s evidence was “beyond thin.”
The Office of Professional Responsibility ultimately found no evidence to support Democrats’ charges that Biskupic was rewarded for prosecuting the Doyle employee.
“OPR also found that Mr. Biskupic took special measures to ensure that politics did not play a role in the case by enlisting the support and assistance of state officials who were Democrats, including using state investigative resources,” Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote to the House Judiciary Committee, after it demanded an internal review in 2008 — the same year Biskupic stepped down and entered private practice.
Reached by Wisconsin Reporter, Biskupic declined comment. He did tell the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in April 2007, when the appeals court announced its decision, that “the decision to prosecute Thompson was based solely on the facts.”
But to Democrats, the whole episode smelled like yesterday’s fish.
Conservatives argue the Democrat-led Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office‘s John Doe probe has the same political stink to it.
Launched in early 2012 by Milwaukee County Assistant DA Bruce Landgraf, the investigation has targeted some 29 conservative organizations. Sources close to the investigation say Landgraf and investigators are searching for evidence of illegal campaign coordination during Wisconsin’s historic political recalls.
One source with knowledge of the investigation has told Wisconsin Reporter 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 requested anonymity because of their proximity to the investigation or to people connected to it.
A Wall Street Journal opinion piece, headlined “Wisconsin Political Speech Raid,” says at least three homes were raided, and more than 100 subpoenas have been handed out, including one that demands “all records of income received, including fundraising information and the identity of persons contributing to the corporation.”
Prosecutors in the latest John Doe investigation have put innocent people in jail, too.
And there are charges that the latest John Doe, like the last such investigation, is taking place — and being leaked — just as Wisconsin’s race for governor gets under way.
After the appeals court blasted Biskupic in April 2007, the New York Times wrote a gut-wrenching editorial about a miscarriage of justice. The Times said opponents of then-Gov. Jim Doyle spent $4 million on ads trying to link the Democratic incumbent to a criminally convicted Thompson.
“The effort failed, and Mr. Doyle was re-elected — and now the state employee has been found to have been wrongly convicted. The entire affair is raising serious questions about why a United States attorney put an innocent woman in jail,” the newspaper stated.
Walker found himself in a similar situation last year, running in a Democrat-led recall campaign. The Republican governor’s campaign was hit by millions of dollars in negative ads, political debris without foundation linking Walker to individuals charged in the previous Democrat-led John Doe investigation.
That probe ended in March 2013, nine months after Walker beat back the recall attempt, without any charges of wrongdoing against the governor. But the big-money union ads attempted to make Walker look like a criminal.
There are other similarities. In the fall of 2005, as Biskupic began his investigation into the state employee, the U.S. attorney released details to the media. As the Times wrote, Justice Department guidelines prohibit federal prosecutors from discussing investigations before an indictment, unless there are extraordinary circumstances.
“This case hardly met that test,” the newspaper asserted.
Wisconsin’s John Doe investigations, too, are supposed to be secret. Violators can go to jail. But that didn’t stop leaks designed to undermine Walker during the 2012 recall campaign.
Milwaukee County Sheriff Clarke, a vocal critic of the political John Doe probes, compared the Biskupic case with the current targeting of conservatives.
“Maybe someone should have a court review of this John Doe to see if this is a cease-and-desist situation,” said Clarke, adding that the DA’s office in “Milwaukee County is becoming weaponized for political purposes.”
But where’s the righteous indignation now, the sheriff asked.
Contact M.D. Kittle at [email protected]
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- Federal judge blasts John Doe prosecutors – again – as he denies records release
- Right on cue: Document dump fuels anti-Walker donation drive
- Wall Street Journal points out ‘disgrace’ of mainstream John Doe reporting
- Expert: John Doe raids raise ‘troubling’ Fourth Amendment questions
- Kelly Rindfleisch tells conservatives, ‘Don’t back down’
- Mainstream media forced to walk back Walker ‘criminal scheme’ narrative
- John Doe prosecutors engaged in premature justification, conservatives say
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- AG opinion means accountability board’s John Doe secrets are safe — for now
- Senator asks attorney general to compel GAB to open up its books
- GAB now playing secrets in state John Doe lawsuit
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- Hillary Clinton plays victim card
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- Attorney: audio confirms traumatic John Doe raid of Cindy Archer’s home
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- John Doe reform bill starts to move again
- Conservatives ask Abrahamson to turn over John Doe-related records
- John Doe investigators say there are more tapes of raids
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- Explosive email exposes GAB attorney’s partisan motives in John Doe probe
- An open letter to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Patrick Marley
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- Updated complaint shines more light on dark day in John Doe
- Partisan Falk once urged GAB to ‘get around constitutional right to free speech’
- Legislature to take up John Doe reform in October, GOP leadership says
- Knudson on GAB: ‘We need to take this thing apart’
- Did the GAB ‘illegally coordinate’ with left-leaning groups?
- John Doe prosecutors get a win, practice legal gymnastics again
- Wall Street Journal: GAB targeted conservative justices in John Doe defense
- Craig says bill to investigate GAB’s John Doe activities coming soon
- New emails show GAB assisting in John Doe defense after judge said stop
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- Judge orders GAB to turn over emails with liberal groups
- The silence of the left is the Dems’ transparency hypocrisy
- GAB chairman: ‘I wasn’t offended’ by John Doe raids
- Sources: Bill would overhaul controversial GAB
- GAB fighting to keep its secrets out of public eye
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- Kevin Kennedy’s spin to save the GAB and his job contradicts the record
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- Memo to Legislature: Take a closer look at GAB Judge’s conduct
- Senate passes GAB overhaul, campaign finance reform in ‘extraordinary’ session
- Conservatives to court on GAB’s secrets: ‘Enough is enough’
- Milwaukee citizens petition Walker to remove DA John Chisholm from office
- Rogue GAB pushing strained legal arguments to keep its secrets
- GAB just about dead as final overhaul bill passes Assembly
- Speech cop, prosecutors argue for secrecy in the face of GAB extinction
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel mentions petition to remove Milwaukee DA — finally
- Taxpayers on hook for at least $187,000 to defend rogue GAB
- Court filing shows GAB’s Kennedy asking Lois Lerner if IRS ‘would be interested’
- Lawmaker asking GAB to open its John Doe records
- Did GAB’s Kevin Kennedy break the law in John Doe talks with Lois Lerner?
- John Doe victims still in legal limbo four months after Supreme Court ruling
- John Doe political prisoner Kelly Rindfleisch completes probation
- Lawmaker advises GAB’s Kevin Kennedy to ‘obey the law’
- Walker yet to sign GAB overhaul bill
- Wisconsin Supreme Court to rule on motion to reconsider John Doe ruling
- Wisconsin Supreme Court reaffirms John Doe is dead
- John Doe prosecutor gets no respect from targets he intimidated for years
- Former John Doe special prosecutor has little chance before high court
- Political speech ‘watchdogs’ urge continuation of illegal John Doe
- Attorney General: End John Doe case now
- Attorney General: John Chisholm broke campaign finance law
- Milwaukee County Board signals support to fight for illegal John Doe
- The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s selective outrage on transparency
- District attorneys want out of political John Doe business
- Did DA who launched political John Doe probe break campaign finance laws?
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- Mainstream media displays selective principles on open records
- John Doe targets tell Supreme Court that prosecutor is not complying with order
- Schimel says decision coming soon on open records complaint against GAB
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- Petitioner against John Chisholm: Walker’s office dropped the ball
- Chisholm’s use of big guns in John Doe fight raises legal questions
- Lawmaker takes one more try at records request with reluctant GAB
- Schimel says John Doe prosecutors have no right to illegally obtained ‘evidence’
- GAB’s John Doe secrets could soon be released to the public
- John Doe targets: Chisholm has no right to share illegally seized ‘evidence’
- Conservatives: Attorney General alone has authority over John Doe petition
- AG Brad Schimel on John Doe authority question: It’s complicated
- Court denies DAs’ motion to open up John Doe records to private attorneys
- Chisholm’s unaccountable defense: ‘The records do not exist’
- Unsealed John Doe documents show view from Chisholm’s world
- Did John Doe cost Larry Nelson an election?
- Schimel: John Doe investigators living in ‘Alice in Wonderland world’
- First John Doe documents released from lawsuit show GAB’s partisan motives
- Vos names commissioners, end of GAB inches closer
- Will Senate take up Assembly amendment watering down John Doe reforms?
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- John Doe freedom fighter wins big victory against the IRS
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- Attorney to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter: ‘Your article is ridiculous’
- Judge Lynn Adelman on John Doe records custody: ‘I don’t care about the law’
- Documents raise questions about John Doe judge’s review of warrant
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- Chisholm invokes his illegal John Doe probe in re-election campaign
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- Liberal judge dismisses civil rights lawsuit against John Doe prosecutors
- John Doe victims stuck with GAB retread until at least January
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- Before lamenting the end of the GAB, read this
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- Craig renews call for legislative investigation into John Doe investigators
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- Schimel still weighing options on John Doe leaks
- John Doe dies again: Supreme Court won’t hear Chisholm’s case
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- Attorney says conservatives still waiting for justice in John Doe saga
- Conservatives seek return of possessions, criminal probe of John Doe leaks
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- Former John Doe prosecutor continues to practice delay, attorney says
- Document suggests prosecutors leaked sealed John Doe records to Guardian
- Federal judge scolds John Doe prosecutors for ’emergency motion’
- Rep. Dave Craig: Time has come to investigate John Doe investigators
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- John Doe civil rights lawsuit about to heat up
- AG says grand jury likely to probe John Doe leaks
- Attorney General calls for investigation into John Doe leaks
- Joe Doe lawsuit seeks to answer whether prosecutors have boundless immunity
- An open letter to the Wisconsin Supreme Court from a John Doe victim
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- John Doe probe will never be over for furious Democrats
- Does prosecutorial immunity trump justice in John Doe-related lawsuit?
- Attorney general’s office remains silent on John Doe leak probe
- Seized documents could raise legal questions for John Doe special prosecutor, GAB