By: James Simpson
Accuracy in Media
The news was filled last week with breathless headlines: “Scott Walker part of ‘criminal scheme,’” declared The Washington Post. The Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Journal Sentinel, which is intimately familiar with the facts of this case, nonetheless headlined “John Doe prosecutors allege Scott Walker at center of ‘criminal scheme.’” The New York Times, all the networks, CNN, MSNBC, Time.com and all the other usual suspects chimed in with a deafening cacophony of alarm, using the same “Walker at center of criminal scheme” headlines. Even Forbes took the bait.
In a year saturated with false, misleading or downright fraudulent misreporting from the left-wing biased mass media, this disgraceful bit of propaganda vies for first place. The court documents in this formerly secret investigation were not new, and the case has been thrown out of court and declared illegal, not once but twice.
Not only were the same headlines used, but most news outlets used the same dishonest technique to make this old information sound like it was breaking news. Politico’s lead paragraph reads:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker participated in a “criminal scheme” to coordinate fundraising for Republicans trying to beat back efforts to recall him and state senators from office, local prosecutors argue in court documents released Thursday.
Politico lies. By stating it in the present tense as, “prosecutors argue in court documents released Thursday,” Politico implies the allegations are current. These documents are from last year and have only been unsealed because these same prosecutors are now being sued by their former victims for their rampant abuse of the legal system.
In fact, the whole thing stinks.
We now know that this document dump, authorized by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, was requested by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a leftwing media advocacy group representing a who’s who of the mainstream media. The prosecutors, who had earlier asked that documents remain sealed, did an about face and sided with the Reporters Committee. Furthermore, it was the prosecutors who cherry picked the documents to be released. So the media are not merely mischaracterizing the release of these documents, it is almost certain that this was a planned ambush.
This so-called “John Doe” secret investigation originally subpoenaed over 100 Wisconsin conservative groups, seeking to uncover illegal campaign coordination between these groups and Governor Walker. This included at least five pre-dawn, SWAT-style raids on the homes of some of the targets last October. Because the investigation was secret, conservative groups were silenced on the eve of an important election year. The Wall Street Journal observed that “the ‘coordination’ prosecutors have decried in Scott Walker’s case is nearly identical to the ‘coordination’ employed during the 2012 presidential campaign on behalf of President Obama.”
Sound familiar? In addition to restraining conservative groups during the 2012 elections, the IRS probe has recently revealed that Lois Lerner conspired with Justice Department officials to explore the possibility of criminally prosecuting conservative groups, just for applying for non-profit status. It appears that the Wisconsin prosecutors were way ahead of them.
But they have been stopped in their tracks, not once but twice. John Doe presiding judge Gregory Peterson ruled in January that prosecutors had found no “criminal scheme,” denied their subpoenas and ordered them to return property seized in the raids. Prosecutors appealed the ruling.
In February, the Wisconsin Club for Growth and its president, Eric O’Keefe, sued the prosecutors in federal court, arguing that the investigation violated their First Amendment rights. Presiding U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Randa agreed. He argued that the prosecutors were attempting to classify free speech as a criminal activity, and that the victims’ lawsuit was “likely to succeed.” He concluded:
The plaintiffs have been shut out of the political process merely by association with conservative politicians. This cannot square with the First Amendment and what it was meant to protect.” He ordered all records sealed and the investigation stopped immediately. Predictably, the prosecutors appealed that too.
Judge Randa also criticized last week’s document release, saying that prosecutors are now seeking “refuge in the Court of Public Opinion, having lost in this Court of law.”
A Litany of Lies
Wisconsin’s unique “John Doe” law allows anyone to make anonymous allegations of criminal activity by public officials, which can then prompt exploratory investigations. Prosecutors are not required to provide any evidence of wrongdoing to pursue investigations, and proceedings are secret. As one Wisconsin law office explains it, “Unlike normal criminal proceedings, which can be initiated if there is probable cause to believe a person has violated the law, John Doe proceedings help law enforcement develop the evidence necessary to establish the very existence of probable cause.”
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a prominent Democrat, launched this latest John Doe investigation. Assistant DAs Bruce Landgraf and David Robles were also heavily involved, as was Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board (Wisconsin’s version of a state board of elections). While nominally led by a panel comprised of three Democrat and three Republican appointed judges, the GAB is in fact a staunchly partisan organization run by Democrat Kevin Kennedy. More about that later. After getting a green light from the GAB, district attorneys from four other counties were encouraged to launch their own John Doe investigations.
Walker Initiated First John Doe
However, this was merely a continuation of an earlier investigation initiated by Walker himself in 2010. While still Milwaukee County Executive, Walker learned that members of his staff may have stolen money from a veterans group. He immediately reported it. There were ultimately six convictions in that case.
Ignoring the fact that Walker called for the investigation, Democrats attempted to make it all about him, but Walker was never a target. Still, it dragged on for four years, leading many critics to accuse the Democrats of a partisan witch hunt. Chisholm finally ended the probe in 2013, stating, “After a review of the John Doe evidence, I am satisfied that all charges that are supported by proof beyond a reasonable doubt have now been brought and concluded.”
But Democrats could not let it go. The second probe, launched on the heels of John Doe I, was a sweeping investigation of Walker’s 2010 political campaign, the recall election, and almost anyone who supported him. Chisholm sought to obscure the partisan nature of this probe by finding a Republican to act as an independent prosecutor, writing then presiding judge, Barbara Kluka:
…the partisan political affiliations of the undersigned elected District Attorneys will lead to public allegations of impropriety. Democratic prosecutors will be painted as conducting a partisan witch hunt…An Independent Special Prosecutor having no partisan affiliation addresses the legitimate concerns about the appearance of impropriety.
Kluka appointed former Deputy U.S. Attorney Francis Schmitz. Democrats hasten to point out that Schmitz is a Republican and that two out of the five John Doe county prosecutors are Republicans. But this appears to be window dressing. Schmitz has been described as “a weakling… unlikely to lead an aggressive investigation,” and was selected, despite having no experience in campaign finance law. Finally, although this was supposed to be an independent investigation, Chisholm’s office remained part of the probe, while other counties lost interest. One of the Democrats, Dane County Prosecutor Ismael Ozanne, is also candidate for State Attorney General. No conflict of interest?
Judge Kluka later recused herself from this case for reasons she would not explain, but not before authorizing the pre-dawn raids and multiple subpoenas to seize personal property. Judge Peterson was selected to replace her.
Democrats went after Walker almost from the day he took office. In addition to the John Doe investigations, he faced a massive Astroturf union protest early in his first year and an unprecedented string of recalls in the second. With the exception of the protest, which the mainstream media championed as America’s own “Arab Spring,” the story of Democrats’ unparalleled viciousness was conducted behind a wall of silence from the national media. This author reported the story in full here, and later, in an e-book titled Red Unions. Here are just a few highlights:
- On live radio, a leftist talk show host accused Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch of “pulling trains” and performing “fellatio on all the talk show hosts in Milwaukee” to get elected. Kleefisch, a political neophyte, was diagnosed with cancer during her campaign, underwent surgery and chemo, and won anyway.
- To boisterous cheers, a union activist told a crowd including prominent Democratic congressmen, senators and candidates that they should urinate on Republicans.
- The Attorney General released over 100 pages of documented threats, including emails suggesting Walker or legislators should be shot, hanged, watch their backs, look over their shoulders or resign.
- Early childhood teacher Katherine Windels pled guilty to making death threats to Governor Walker and Republican senators, including statements like: “Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your families will also be killed…“
- A union agitator posted a photo of Governor Walker’s son, asking, “What’s it like having the most hated dad in Wisconsin? This kid knows.”
- Union members disrupted a Special Olympics award ceremony, blocking recipients from getting their awards.
- 2,000 union protesters demonstrated at a Walker fundraiser and took pictures of attendees’ license plates.
- Hundreds of police were required around the clock when protesters occupied the capitol building, increasing the protest cost to over $8 million, and leaving communities vulnerable. One detective testified in court that two robbery suspects were later arrested for a murder he might have otherwise prevented.
- Analysis of recall petitions by Verify the Recall, an independent group assisted by True the Vote, revealed numerous fraudulent petitions.
- During the recall election, the supposedly non-partisan GAB vowed to accept all recall petitions with a valid address, even if signed by Adolf Hitler, and flatly refused to analyze their validity.
- One Democrat activist, Mark Demet, was charged with seven counts of felony ID theft and two counts of vote fraud for signing petitions using the names of family members and neighbors, including one neighbor’s dead husband, without their knowledge or consent. He pled guilty to the election fraud but allegations have surfaced that he submitted fraudulent votes in another county too.
Democrats did not launch the John Doe investigation because Walker was involved in any “criminal schemes.” Indeed, they proved that many of their own schemes warrant prosecution. Walker was targeted because Democrats recognized his effectiveness as a leader and his stated intention to roll back union power as an existential threat to their existence.
Walker’s performance since then has validated the worst of their fears. When Walker took office in 2011, Wisconsin faced a looming $3.6 billion structural deficit, largely as a result of former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle’s constant pandering to unions.
Governor Walker’s modest “Budget Repair Bill,” now known as Act 10, proposed that union members contribute a mere 12.6 percent to their health care premiums (they were paying between 4 and 6 percent), and 5.8 percent toward pensions, where they had previously contributed almost nothing. He also proposed curbs on collective bargaining rights.
These modest changes—accomplished without raising taxes—transformed the budget deficit to a surplus of approximately $89 million by 2012. School districts, whose education bureaucrats almost uniformly opposed Walker’s reforms, nonetheless immediately took advantage of them and quickly recognized savings of $220 million. As of 2014, Walker has signed three major tax cuts into law, totaling $2 billion. The latest, signed in March 2014, reduced both income and property tax rates by a total of $504 million. Walker’s ultimate goal is to eliminate the income tax entirely.
Last week, Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development reported that Wisconsin’s unemployment rate now stands at 5.7 percent, the lowest rate since October 2008 and lower than the national average (6.3 percent). Grasping at straws, Walker’s Democratic opponents point out that Wisconsin has not realized Walker’s goal of seeing 250,000 new private sector jobs created during his first term. However, the Workforce Development report notes that the 116,000 new private sector jobs that have been created, “is the largest three-year December-to-December private sector job growth seen under a single Governor this century, according to actual job counts.” Finally, when Walker took office, Wisconsin’s business climate was rated as one of the worst in the count—41st out of 50 states—by Chief Executive Magazine. It has since zoomed to 14th place.
Ever self-conscious that their ruinous, conspicuously self-serving policies don’t play well with the public who pays for them, Democrats have been burning up printing presses, melting Internet cables, and screaming “criminal scheme” to the heavens in an obvious effort to derail Walker’s reelection prospects this coming November, and destroy any prospects he may have in the 2016 presidential elections.
Always looking out for the little guy, those Democrats.