By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON, Wis. — On a day when news headlines nationwide screamed of Gov. Scott Walker’s “apparent” knowledge of illegal campaigning going on in his office when he was Milwaukee County executive, the judge of the nearly three-year “secret” investigation into Walker’s former aides and associates summed up the meat of the matter.
“The John Doe is closed and the results of the John Doe speak for themselves in terms of who has allegedly committed a crime, who has been charged with a crime and who has been convicted of a crime,” former Appeals Court Judge Neal Nettesheim told Wisconsin Reporter on Wednesday.
Not on that conviction list, perhaps much to the dismay of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and like-minded liberals, was Walker.
Nettesheim served as the presiding judge over a sprawling probe launched in spring 2010 by the Democrat-led Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office. He shut down the investigation in March 2013, months after the prosecution’s quest for convictions fizzled out. In the end, Democrat DA John Chisholm and his prosecution squad had compiled six convictions — only two of them related to the original scope of the John Doe, and no charges of wrongdoing by Walker.
But you won’t find those facts in Wednesday’s headlines shouting the release of some 27,000 emails and other documents of Kelly Rindfleisch, Walker’s deputy chief of staff when Walker was Milwaukee County executive. Rindfleisch was sentenced to six months in jail on a misconduct conviction for campaign fundraising at the courthouse using a secret email system, according to the prosecution. She is appealing that decision.
Last week, Judge Patricia Curley of the District I Court of Appeals in Milwaukee ordered the release of all of Rindfleisch’s personal emails.
“Unsealed email ties Scott Walker to secret email system,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s headlined declared.
“This could be the start of Scott Walker’s Bridgegate,” posited the mostly liberal Slate.com’s blogsite, working to compare the content of the emails to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s political troubles.
The media accounts point to emails from Walker aides indicating that the then-county executive knew of the secret email system ostensibly used for campaign-related activities as Walker was running for governor.
“I use this private account quite a bit to communicate with SKW … You should be sure you check it throughout the day,” Cynthia Archer, Walker’s administration director wrote to Rindfleisch, apparently referencing Walker’s initials, according to the emails.
But, again, despite some potentially embarrassing exchanges, nothing contained in the documents — or anything else dredged up in the probe — led to charges of illegal activity against Walker.
“The John Doe here is closed except for one lingering motion which was brought by the Journal Sentinel,” Nettesheim said, referring to the newspaper’s push for the judge to release all documents under seal in the probe. That decision has been delayed, Nettesheim said.
Nettesheim said he was “completely unfamiliar” with the release of the emails, that he first learned of their distribution when he was contacted Wednesday afternoon by Wisconsin Reporter.
But liberal groups and the media at large were chomping at the bit to push out every seemingly salacious detail.
Left-bending American Bridge, a super political action committee with ties to Hillary Clinton, on Wednesday morning giddily announced it was launching a new website on Wisconsin’s not-so-secret John Doe probes. It rejoiced in offering the first bits of political dirt it found in the emails and interpreted them for public consumption.
But perhaps American Bridge wasn’t nearly as hungry to gather intelligence on Walker as prosecutors in the John Doe investigation, as noted in the story by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the recipient of so much leaked information from that probe.
“The records reveal a frenzy of activity by prosecutors and investigators on Nov. 1, 2010, the day before Walker was elected governor. They conducted raids at Walker’s county office, his campaign office and the homes of several of his aides, including Rindfleisch,” the newspaper noted.
“Just before those raids were conducted that day, John Doe Judge Neal Nettesheim agreed to prosecutors’ request to enlarge the probe to include Rindfleisch and three other top aides in the Milwaukee County executive’s office — (Walker’s then-chief of staff Tom) Nardell.; Fran McLaughlin, his spokeswoman; and Dorothy Moore, his scheduler.”
Enlarging the investigation has been the prosecutorial plan of action in the latest John Doe, launched in August 2012 by Chisholm’s office. The probe has expanded to five counties and is targeting dozens of conservative groups alleged to have committed “illegal coordination” with Walker’s campaign during the 2012 recall election. Walker, the bane of the left for key conservative policy victories such as his government collective bargaining reforms, easily won the recall election, which were driven by multiple liberal groups and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.
Those liberal organizations, according to a civil rights lawsuit filed against prosecutors in “John Doe II,” appeared to have coordinated in the same way as conservative groups, yet not a single left-leaning organization appears to be the subject of a secret probe.
The presiding judge in the latest John Doe has quashed several subpoenas, asserting the prosecution failed to show evidence that the conservative groups in question violated the law.
Just like its predecessor, John Doe II has sparked a firestorm of controversy, viewed by conservatives as nothing more than a taxpayer-funded political witch hunt by the left.
Nettesheim said he was not surprised by the political heat the first John Doe probe generated.
“When I was approached by director of the state court office and was asked if I’d be willing to conduct the John Doe, I knew very well the political implications on both sides of the aisle,” the judge said. “But like Harry Truman once said, I find the heat in this kitchen very comfortable.”
Nettesheim said he managed to equally aggravate the right and the left.
But unlike the previous John Doe, when so many conservatives seemed paralyzed by the investigation’s gag order, some on the right are speaking up and speaking out about what they see as an assault on their First Amendment rights. And they sound like they do not intend to go down quietly without a fight.
Contact M.D. Kittle at watchdog.org
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- EXCLUSIVE: Judge in Democrat-led John Doe probe recuses herself
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- Conservative targets bring in big guns to Democrat-led John Doe fight
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- Center for Media and Democracy: Liberals are morally superior
- Wisconsin Dems suddenly support political investigations
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- Lawmaker: Wisconsin’s John Doe like Christie’s ‘Bridgegate’
- Target files civil rights lawsuit against Wisconsin’s John Doe prosecutors
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- Liberal group looking to take Wisconsin’s John Doe national
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- Secret agent Dean Nickel’s defense: ‘Dean Nickel is not responsible’
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- Recusal in John Doe case raises questions of fairness, purpose
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- Poll suggests Dems’ big ‘secret’ weapon against Walker is backfiring
- ‘Easy target': Kelly Rindfleisch breaks silence about John Doe probe
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- Judge denies John Doe prosecutors’ move to dismiss civil rights suit
- Civil rights expert: John Doe law is ‘un-American,’ like something from ‘Nazi Germany’
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- Federal judge denies John Doe prosecutors’ motion to stall civil rights case
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- Federal judge’s ruling could open up sealed John Doe records
- Federal judge orders John Doe probe shut down again
- Lawmakers call for review of GAB’s secret John Doe activities, funds
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- John Doe special prosecutor obeys judge’s order
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- Appeals court upholds judge’s order shutting down John Doe probe
- O’Keefe keeps collecting big wins in John Doe lawsuit
- John Doe I judge says he’s not responsible for John Doe II
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- Humiliated in court, WI Dems take their anti-conservative John Doe probe to the media
- 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
- Is John Doe probe a case of a mini NSA in Wisconsin?
- 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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- Judge denies conservatives’ request to add GAB to civil rights lawsuit
- Oral arguments set in John Doe prosecutors’ appeal
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- Senator: Looks like accountability board is hiding something
- Kelly Rindfleisch appeal to test validity of John Doe digital searches
- Conservatives in John Doe battle know disclosure comes with a heavy price
- Appeals court orders release of some John Doe documents
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- Overheated media erroneously bring back Walker ‘criminal scheme’ theme
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- John Doe prosecutors take desperate, unethical slap
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- A whistleblower’s story: Taking on a ‘hyper-partisan’ district attorney
- Conservative O’Keefe seeks investigation into John Chisholm and his John Doe
- Who’s paying the bill? Report casts questions on GAB and John Doe payments
- Target of secret John Doe probe is fighting back and speaking out
- The day John Doe rushed through the door
- Rindfleisch: ‘Rape’ not too strong a word for how violated John Doe targets feel
- Conservative group asks court to stop John Doe ‘constitutional injury’
- Conservatives to appeals court: ‘You don’t know Doe’
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- Federal judge stops John Doe prosecutors from bothering conservative group
- Wisconsin Supreme Court takes another pass on John Doe case
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- Federalism v. individual rights: A conversation with Eric O’Keefe
- Report: No district attorney will investigate District Attorney John Chisholm
- Appeals court denies request to rehear John Doe civil rights case