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
- Sources: Secret probe targeting conservatives is abuse of prosecutorial powers
- Scary! Phantom prosecutor in Dems’ war on conservatives disappears inside courthouse
- EXCLUSIVE: Judge in Democrat-led John Doe probe recuses herself
- Democrats’ ‘intelligence-gathering’ spreads in Wisconsin
- Democrats tap anti-terror expert to head secret probe of Wisconsin conservatives
- Sheriff Clarke: John Doe case shows Milwaukee DA is ‘weaponized for political purposes’
- Clarke: John Doe into conservatives ‘unbridled,’ ‘dangerous’ and ‘tainted’
- Sources: New judge named in Democrat-led secret probe
- Vendetta justice? Criticism growing about John Doe prosecutor Bruce Landgraf
- Will Wisconsin’s own ‘Miserable’ inspector jail conservative activist for speaking out about Dem probe?
- Conservative targets bring in big guns to Democrat-led John Doe fight
- ‘Dangerous’ game: Former FEC official blasts Democrats’ secret investigation of conservative groups
- Center for Media and Democracy: Liberals are morally superior
- Wisconsin Dems suddenly support political investigations
- WI Republican attorney general to represent judges in Democrat-led John Doe probe
- Republicans speak out about silent John Doe targeting conservatives
- Biggest secret in John Doe may be just how judges and special prosecutors are selected
- WSJ: John Doe judge deals body blow to secret probe targeting conservatives
- Vos: Wait until John Doe in ‘rearview mirror’ before revisiting law
- Lawsuits looming in Wisconsin’s crumbling John Doe probe?
- Conservative to Democrat prosecutors: Shut down secret political probe or face civil rights lawsuit
- John Doe target O’Keefe taking on IRS, too
- Lawmaker: Wisconsin’s John Doe like Christie’s ‘Bridgegate’
- Target files civil rights lawsuit against Wisconsin’s John Doe prosecutors
- Disparate treatment: Civil rights lawsuit claims conservative speech trampled
- Liberal group looking to take Wisconsin’s John Doe national
- John Doe judge: ‘Results of the John Doe speak for themselves’
- John Doe special prosecutor appeals judge’s ruling quashing subpoenas
- John Doe prosecutor pushed for brain-damaged man’s conviction in ATF debacle
- Conservatives counterpunch John Doe prosecutors’ move to stall injunction
- Shadowy John Doe investigator invokes federalism in civil rights lawsuit
- John Doe prosecutors wanted higher-priced lawyers, source says
- Secret agent Dean Nickel’s defense: ‘Dean Nickel is not responsible’
- D’oh! John Doe prosecutors claim secrecy protection – after filing secret documents
- Recusal in John Doe case raises questions of fairness, purpose
- Absolute immunity makes it tough to prosecute the prosecutors of John Doe
- Poll suggests Dems’ big ‘secret’ weapon against Walker is backfiring
- ‘Easy target': Kelly Rindfleisch breaks silence about John Doe probe
- SCOTUS ruling on campaign finance shows abuse of John Doe, targets say
- Nobody will say what John Doe’s shadow man did, but taxpayers are paying his legal bill
- 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’
- Target: John Doe prosecutors making up campaign law as they go along
- John Doe, as it is being used, must go, WI senator says
- John Doe target says prosecutors latest move another delay tactic
- John Doe prosecutors sound defensive in latest court filings
- Federal judge denies John Doe prosecutors’ motion to stall civil rights case
- Media coalition asks judge to open sealed John Doe documents
- Are John Doe prosecutors sweating out federal judge’s decision?
- John Doe is dead: Judge stops WI prosecutors’ probe into conservatives
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- What’s next for now-defunct John Doe probe?
- Appeals court stalls judge’s order halting John Doe probe
- 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
- Lawyers, lawyers everywhere and other dispatches from John Doe Land
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- Appeals Court declares portions of Wisconsin campaign finance law unconstitutional
- John Doe prosecutors suddenly support opening sealed court records
- Expert: It’s as if GAB decided ‘Citizens United didn’t exist’
- John Doe prosecutors voice phony outrage, legal source says
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- State Farm still doesn’t want to cover John Doe prosecutor’s legal bills
- For the Walker-hating left, John Doe is ‘Mission Accomplished’
- Sources: No urgency in WI Supreme Court on John Doe
- Would Walker settlement with John Doe prosecutors be a deal with the devil?
- Contempt questions surround reported John Doe deal talks
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- Sources: Attorney General passes on defending GAB in John Doe cases
- Attorney to judge: Don’t let John Doe prosecutor ‘moot’ injunction
- John Doe targets sue Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board
- Federal judge says his order halting John Doe probe should be clear to prosecutor
- John Doe special prosecutor’s bill still shrouded in secrecy
- ‘Are these kind of armed pre-dawn raids standard operating procedure?’
- John Doe special prosecutor obeys judge’s order
- ‘Never-ending’ John Doe never ended, WSJ reports
- 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
- Will taxpayers have to pay for frivolity of John Doe prosecutors?
- John Doe prosecutors jump back into the dark?
- What about those prosecutors? Questions surround other John Doe DAs
- 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
- Will John Doe prosecutors launch lengthy probe against Trek Bicycle?
- John Doe prosecutors engaged in war of words — lots and lots of words
- Judge denies conservatives’ request to add GAB to civil rights lawsuit
- Oral arguments set in John Doe prosecutors’ appeal
- In John Doe Land, the left doesn’t illegally coordinate
- John Doe document blitz must have broken mainstream media’s heart
- 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
- Taxpayers on the hook up to $25,000 for GAB’s legal maneuvers
- Overheated media erroneously bring back Walker ‘criminal scheme’ theme
- ‘Retaliation': Docs show state prosecutors launched mini-NSA probe of WI conservatives
- John Doe prosecutors take desperate, unethical slap
- Walker ‘smoking gun’ story has tiny glaring flaw
- Wisconsin prosecutors aim to shut down conservatives
- Conservatives appeal to common sense in John Doe appeals case
- Conservatives say ‘incorrect disclosure’ of John Doe docs no ‘tiny error’
- First Amendment big guns back targets of John Doe probe
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- $25,000 and counting: WI taxpayers’ bill so far to defend GAB and its ‘monster’
- Another blow for Wisconsin’s restrictive campaign finance law
- Wisconsin prosecutors appeal for protection from blowback in partisan probe
- Is John Doe story colored with a bit of ‘Macbeth?’
- GAB director says agency just following the law in John Doe probe
- Kelly Rindfleisch: Where are the tears for the kids the Milwaukee school system failed?
- Rindfleisch attorney: Appeals court can protect the Fourth Amendment in Digital Age
- Source: Wisconsin Supreme Court doesn’t want political heat of John Doe case
- Appeals court reverses John Doe injunction, but Wisconsin’s secret war far from over
- 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’
- Armed and growing: Milwaukee County DA beefs up his ‘police force’
- Federal judge stops John Doe prosecutors from bothering conservative group
- Wisconsin Supreme Court takes another pass on John Doe case
- No surprise: Bice buries the lead, Walker follows the law
- 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
- Voters say ‘yes’ to Walker, ‘no’ to John Doe, law expert says
- Vos: There will be reforms to John Doe, GAB
- GAB, Milwaukee County DA bail on key provision behind war on conservatives
- John Doe lawsuit could be headed to U.S. Supreme Court
- Kelly Rindfleisch will fight on in Fourth Amendment case
- John Doe froze conservative speech, targets say
- Conservatives to court: Open up records on GAB’s role in John Doe
- Did the GAB doctor documents to cover their tracks in John Doe?
- Wisconsin’s Van Hollen says goodbye to AG post, John Doe
- Rindfleisch appeals to Supreme Court in John Doe Fourth Amendment abuse case
- Audit: GAB has failed to follow the law
- Wisconsin Supreme Court to take up John Doe complaints
- ‘R word’ surfaces in wake of state Supreme Court taking up John Doe challenges
- GAB won’t say whether it has reauthorized its role in John Doe probe
- Rogue agency defied judges to carry out partisan probe of Wisconsin conservatives
- ‘Outside the … law’: Lawmakers call for investigation of GAB
- Attorney: GAB’s John Doe justifications don’t hold up to law
- Isn’t it ironic: Mainstream silence follows reports of secret GAB Gmail in John Doe
- GAB offers contradictory defense of its John Doe activities
- O’Keefe officially asks judge to open probe into John ‘Doe’ Chisholm
- State lawmakers look to investigate the GAB and its investigators
- One year ago, judge’s ruling shakes up John Doe probe
- Doe possessed: ‘They have information about every aspect of our lives’
- GAB plays victim card in ‘complicated’ John Doe, campaign finance farce
- Public defender asks Supreme Court to take up John Doe-related Fourth Amendment case
- GAB has a sudden change of heart on campaign finance reform
- O’Keefe takes his case against John Doe to U.S. Supreme Court