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Conservative to Democrat prosecutors: Shut down secret political probe or face civil rights lawsuit

By   /   January 15, 2014  /   No Comments

Part 21 of 41 in the series Wisconsin's Secret War

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. — Eric O’Keefe has a message for the prosecutors who have targeted him and dozens of conservative groups in a politically charged John Doe investigation: Drop the probe now or become defendants in a federal civil rights lawsuit.

O’Keefe, director of the Wisconsin Club for Growth, a limited government advocacy organization targeted for alleged illegal “coordination” with Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign during the state’s recall elections, in a statement that the investigation is “political payback by elected prosecutors against conservative activists for their political successes in Wisconsin.”

“They are violating the constitutional rights of private citizens and must be held accountable,” O’Keefe said in the statement released Wednesday.

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TEAR DOWN THIS PROBE: Conservative activist Eric O’Keefe is preparing to take to court prosecutors in a two-year John Doe investigation into conservative groups if the prosecution doesn’t immediately shut down the campaign-finance probe.

O’Keefe’s attorney, David B. Rivkin has sent a letter to prosecutors stating the nearly two-year John Doe investigation, conducted with a court-ordered gag order in place, has no basis in Wisconsin law and that it violates O’Keefe’s First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association.

The prosecutors’ legal reasoning “is unsupportable as a matter of law and crystal clear evidence of bad faith,” the release states.

“I am confident that any federal court that reviews the facts will see your investigation for what it is, put a stop to it, and hold you publicly accountable,” the letter states.

Rivkin, perhaps best known outside the legal community as a frequent commentator and guest on national TV and radio shows, is a partner at Washington, D.C.-based law firm Baker Hostetler LLP, with extensive experience in constitutional law litigation.

He has represented the 26 states that have challenged the constitutionality of Obamacare and was the lead outside counsel in the District Court and Court of Appeals.

The letter demands Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat, and the other prosecutors in the multiple-county probe “close the investigation immediately, publicly exonerate Mr. O’Keefe and the Club, and dissolve the gag order that bars discussion of the proceeding.”

O’Keefe, according to the statement, is “unable to comment on the probe or his anticipated federal action” due to the John Doe’s secrecy order. He has not returned Wisconsin Reporter’s calls seeking comment.

He seemingly defied the gag order in November, when he told the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board that he is a target of the investigation and confirmed that he received a subpoena. The Journal opinion piece, headlined “Wisconsin Political Speech Raid,” said copies of two subpoenas demanded “all memoranda, email . . . correspondence, and communications” internally and between the subpoena target and at least 29 conservative groups, including Wisconsin and national nonprofits, political vendors and party committees. “The groups include the League of American Voters, Wisconsin Family Action, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, Americans for Prosperity — Wisconsin, American Crossroads, the Republican Governors Association, Friends of Scott Walker and the Republican Party of Wisconsin,” according to the Journal.

The court-sanctioned dragnet has subpoenaed more than 100 conservative and free-market activists. Though gagged by provisions of the subpoenas, several sources have told Wisconsin Reporter the manifold legal attack on nonprofit political organizations has included pre-dawn raids on homes and offices; confiscated equipment and files; and demands for phone, email and other records.

THE LAWYER: David B. Rivkin has sent a letter to prosecutors stating the nearly two-year John Doe investigation, conducted with a court-ordered gag order in place, has no basis in Wisconsin law.

Judge Gregory A. Peterson, the probe’s presiding judge, on Friday quashed several of the subpoenas to conservative groups and ordered the return of property to the targets of a so-called John Doe campaign-finance probe, according to a story broken by the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board.

O’Keefe’s Wisconsin Club for Growth – as well as Walker’s campaign, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Inc., and Citizens for a Strong America – were victims of improper subpoenas, according to the judge. Peterson said the subpoenas “do not show probable cause that the moving parties committed any violations of the campaign finance laws,” according to the sealed opinion, obtained by the Journal.

A Wisconsin legal expert close to the probe earlier this week told Wisconsin Reporter that litigation from the targets was a distinct possibility following the judge’s ruling.

“I don’t think the people who have been harmed by (the investigation) are going to let bygones be bygones,” the source said on condition of anonymity due to his proximity to the probe. “I could see them looking at litigation and it wouldn’t surprise me if there are calls for … an investigation into the investigators.”

Sources say it is probable the prosecution will appeal the judge’s ruling, although special investigator Francis Schmitz did not return a call Monday from Wisconsin Reporter seeking comment.

Prosecutors  have repeatedly said they will not comment on any aspect of the John Doe.

Conservative sources close to the investigation tell Wisconsin Reporter that they have no illusions that a prosecution they believe is bent on bringing down Walker and freezing conservative political speech will simply walk away from the probe.

Contact M.D. Kittle at mkittle@watchdog.org

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