Still waiting for John Doe justice
Waukesha Freeman 10/6/16 Page A5 Opinion
Still waiting for John Doe justice
Illegal leaks must be prosecuted
The U.S. Supreme Court struck a blow for free speech Monday when it announced it would not take up the John Doe investigation case, ending a partisan witch hunt into conservative organizations in Wisconsin. Both state and federal courts have found that the investigation was an overreach by prosecutors in trying to shut down speech that is protected by the First Amendment.
That does not mean that the fight is over for the conservatives in Wisconsin who were persecuted by Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm and the former (and entirely misnamed) Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB). As my colleague Matt Kittle over at Wisconsin Watchdog has reported, none of those investigated in the John Doe probe have received any of the materials back that were seized in the raids on their homes and offices.
Aside from just the unnerving aspect of having their property seized by the government, the people targeted by the John Doe investigation have legitimate fear that the information gathered by the prosecutors will be abused. When the Guardian, a left-wing newspaper based in Great Britain, released emails selectively leaked from the investigation in September, it was yet another reminder of how corrupt the entire John Doe process has been.
It was hardly the first illegal leak of information from a supposedly sealed investigation. The private emails of people who have done nothing wrong have been spilling out ever since the investigation began. The purpose of the leaks has been political from the beginning, just as the investigation has been.
Instead of investigating the source of the illegal leaks with, say, the zeal with which the media investigated the source of the leaked Democratic National Committee emails, the media has contented itself with publishing the contents and tut-tutting over false scandals. The latest supposed scandal was that “lead paint manufacturers” gave to an issue advocacy group friendly to conservatives.
Somebody forgot to tell the Wisconsin media that there is no such thing as a lead paint manufacturer, and there hasn’t been one in this country for years. Furthermore, the legislation protecting paint manufacturers from being sued for lead paint produced decades ago was pushed by Republicans in Wisconsin long before the recall elections in 2012. The legislation was in response to former state Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler’s vote that put today’s paint manufacturers on the hook for lead paint remediation even though it couldn’t be established they were responsible for producing the paint decades ago.
Wisconsin voters correctly chose to toss Butler from office after that decision, an extremely rare case of an incumbent state Supreme Court Justice losing an election. That hasn’t stopped the newspaper writers and left-wing activist groups from breathlessly pointing to this one donation during the recall elections as proof that somehow Governor Scott Walker is corrupt.
Never mind that if there was anything illegal in the emails that were seized by the partisans at the GAB; the prosecutors there would have happily have gone after the governor or any of his supporters. Their partisan inclinations were revealed in, ironically enough, leaked emails that showed there were actually discussions of how to make communications from the GAB align with the campaign of former Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke.
Until the rest of the material seized in the John Doe raids is either destroyed or returned to its rightful owners, nobody in the investigation is safe from more retaliatory illegal leaks to the media.
Instead of reveling in every little bit of political gossip they can glean from the emails, the state’s media should be outraged that a government agency violated the First Amendment rights of private people engaged in our state’s policy discussions. This abuse of government should not be applauded, but condemned.
Meanwhile, the illegal leaks of personal information cannot go unpunished. Even Chisholm himself has at least pretended to be upset about the leaks from the John Doe. Wisconsin District Attorney Brad Schimel needs to investigate, and prosecute, those who have abused the government’s powers and violated the public trust for partisan ends.
(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)
Thursday, 10/06/2016 Pag.A05 Copyright © 2016 Conley Group. All rights reserved 10/6/2016