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What did the Journal Sentinel know and when did it know it?

By   /   April 23, 2015  /   News  /   No Comments

MADISON, Wis. – The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Patrick Marley confirms he was the mysterious reporter Cindy Archer spotted as armed police swarmed her home during a dramatic September 2011 police raid, one of several in the Milwaukee district attorney’s secret war on conservatives.

“I was the one who was there. I arrived an hour or two after the raid began,” Marley told Wisconsin Watchdog on Wednesday.

Who tipped him off?

“I don’t reveal sources, and I typically don’t help those trying to figure out my sources by telling them who my sources aren’t,” Marley said.

Marley’s appearance at what was supposed to be a secret raid raises the possibility that the Journal Sentinel was tipped off by someone inside law enforcement. That would violate a state statute, as well as Wisconsin’s controversial John Doe law – the law that Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm has invoked twice in four years to launch what are supposed to be secret investigations of conservative activists.

Photo by Wisconsin Public Television

RAID REPORTERS: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel political reporters Patrick Marley (left) and Jason Stein, appear on Wisconsin Public TV to talk about their book on Wisconsin’s 2011 public employee collective bargaining battles. The two teamed up with several other Journal Sentinel reporters to cover the raid on the home of Cindy Archer, a target in the political John Doe probe.

But Marley’s fellow Capitol reporter, Jason Stein, also credited with reporting the Journal Sentinel’s same-day story on the raid, says there’s no mystery. He told Wisconsin Watchdog he’s the one who tipped off Marley.

So where did Stein get the tip?

“No one connected with the John Doe probe, certainly not any law-enforcement officers or prosecutors, tipped me off to the fact that that home was being raided in plain sight on the east side of Madison, where many of the state’s most liberal residents live. The real mystery, to me, was why only one reporter showed up,” he wrote in an email to Wisconsin Watchdog.

That may leave others wondering why Stein asked a fellow political – rather than crime – reporter to cover the police action.

Stein said he dialed up Marley because Stein wasn’t sure he would get there before the cops left. Marley lives closer to Archer’s address and the raid went down before the Capitol reporters clocked in, which in those days was around 9 a.m., Stein said.

“I don’t cover many police raids, but this one was a no brainer, given that local law enforcement and the FBI had suddenly shown up at the home of the (former) No. 2 official at the state’s most important agency,” he said, noting Archer’s previous top-level position at the state Department of Administration. She had taken a leave of absence from the agency just days before the raid.

“Since then, I think it’s become clear that the FBI had only minor involvement in (John) Doe Two for forensic computer work, but at that time we had no idea why the FBI were suddenly involved. For all we knew it was a big development of some kind,” he added.

Stein and Marley are co-authors of More Than They Bargained For: Scott Walker, Unions and the Fight for Wisconsin. The book chronicles Wisconsin’s heated debates and mass protests leading up to the passage of Act 10, Walker’s reforms to public-sector collective bargaining.

The presence of a reporter seemed obvious on Sept. 14, 2011, when the Journal Sentinel published its story on the raid at Archer’s home. That story, attributed to Marley, Stein and two other reporters at the paper, indicated that one of them arrived in time to see “about a dozen law enforcement officers, including FBI agents” raid Archer’s home.

“Around 9 a.m., a reporter saw four FBI agents – two of them wearing latex gloves – talking in Archer’s backyard before going into her house. Later, one removed a large box and put it in the trunk of an FBI car. They left about 10 a.m,” the Journal Sentinel story reported.

“The FBI also seized the hard drive from a computer that a neighbor had bought from Archer six to eight weeks ago at a garage sale.”

FBI agents “told a reporter” that the agency was involved in a “law enforcement action.”

Credit the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Johnny on the spot in the notorious John Doe investigation.

The question of Marley’s identity – and its bearing on the secrecy that Chisholm has insisted is essential to his investigation – derives from David French’s excellent reporting on the John Doe in National Review last week. That account opens with an account of the early-morning raid on Cindy Archer’s home.

French writes that during the raid, Archer “looked outside and saw a person who appeared to be a reporter. Someone had tipped him off.”

As agents with battering rams raided Archer’s home, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and his assistants were digging up what they could on the Milwaukee County Executive’s office. Walker, a Republican, led the county office for several years before being elected Wisconsin’s governor in November 2010. The DA, a Democrat, used information gathered in that probe to launch his investigation into what became a multi-county investigation into 29 conservative groups and Walker’s campaign. Chisholm’s office worked alongside the state Government Accountability Board, John Doe special prosecutor Francis Schmitz, and a very willing John Doe Judge appointed at the direction of Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson to go after the conservatives and their constitutionally protected donor lists.

Stein said he did not learn of the raid until after it started, although he is not sure how long after.

“So we didn’t observe any battering ram or other details that Ms. Archer described recently. As I recall, the neighbors didn’t mention those details and of course Ms. Archer did not provide them,” the reporter said.

Archer did not talk to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, but later spoke to the Wisconsin State Journal.

“I’m not worried,” Archer told the State Journal following the raid. “I don’t even have a lawyer. I don’t need a lawyer. I did nothing inappropriate.”

However they got the tip, the Journal Sentinel reporters were able to find someone able to identify the targets of Chisholm’s raids.

“Sources have said the investigation has increasingly focused on the activities of Archer and Tom Nardelli, Walker’s former county chief of staff,” the newspaper reported.

Three weeks before the raid, when Archer announced she was taking a leave of absence from her job in the governor’s office, the Journal Sentinel reported, “Officials gave no reason for Archer’s leave, its duration or whether she’ll return to the same job” – and then speculated, “It’s not clear if the personal leave is tied to the growing John Doe investigation of Walker’s former county workers.”

Nardelli, who died last year, was never charged with any wrongdoing. In fact, it was Nardelli who, representing Walker, brought to Chisholm’s office a problem: a discrepancy in a Milwaukee County veterans fund. Walker’s concern that the fund had been ripped-off became the initial reason for the secret probe. But from that point, Chisholm’s prosecutors operated on a grander theory: that this opening provided them with an excuse to investigate relationships between Walker and Wisconsin’s conservatives.

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M.D. Kittle is national First Amendment reporter at Watchdog.org. Contact him at mkittle@watchdog.org.