Surprise: Wisconsin’s “John Doe” prosecutors send 159 notices on secret surveillance on court order

posted at 2:41 pm on January 6, 2016 by Ed Morrissey

For those who don’t recall the now-infamous “John Doe” investigation in Wisconsin, it began with the suspicion that Scott Walker’s recall-defense campaign was illegally coordinating with outside conservative groups. Even the basis for this complaint was fraudulent, as Wisconsin’s Supreme Court eventually ruled; there is no legal restriction on communication with other groups as long as it produces no explicit endorsement. But the special prosecutors used this probe to intimidate an untold number of conservatives into silence, conducted secret raids and threatened any of their targets who spoke about them publicly, and secretly accessed their communications as well.

The Wisconsin court ordered prosecutor Francis Schmitz to notify the targets of the electronic surveillance. Schmitz sent out 159 notices, showing the scope of the attack on privacy and political thought by Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board:

Giving a sense of the sweep of a probe into Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign, the special prosecutor who led the probe reported Monday he had sent 159 notices last week to people and organizations whose material he had obtained.

The state Supreme Court in July ended the investigation into ties between Walker’s campaign and conservative groups supporting him, ruling candidates and issue groups can work together closely.

In December, the court determined Francis Schmitz had been improperly appointed special prosecutor and ordered him to notify any person or group whose material had been taken.

Schmitz informed the court that some notices may be duplicates, as they are notifying based on accounts accessed rather than targets. Those with multiple e-mail accounts will get more than one notice. Even so, the number of accounts violated by the GAB’s hatchet men is a staggering figure for a probe about an arcane point of campaign-finance law, as were the tactics used to punish those who had the temerity to engage in conservative politics in Wisconsin.

Watchdog’s M. D. Kittle gives a more extensive look into the damage that this has caused in Wisconsin (via Instapundit):

“In many cases, prosecutors seized records from individuals and organizations for a time period covering January of 2009 through October of 2013, even though the prosecutors were supposedly investigating activities related to recall elections that took place in the summer of 2011 and 2012,” Jordahl said.  “Some of those individuals and the organizations they were associated with had no connection to Wisconsin during much of the time period listed on the warrants.  In one case, prosecutors obtained a warrant demanding records for a time period that preceded the organization’s existence.”

The illegal search and seizures turned up everything from bank records to political donor lists.

“The truth is, prosecutors never made any attempt to narrow the scope of search warrants or the list of people for whom they were issued,” Jordahl added.

And now one Wisconsin conservative, who says he was connected to Walker only by party and political ideology at the time he had his emails secretly confiscated, has learned he was unwittingly caught up in the political probe.

He said he takes no consolation from the strangely personal way in which the special prosecutor signed his notice: “Very truly yours, Francis D. Schmitz.”

“He’s not an uncle. He’s not a cousin. He’s not my grandfather. He’s not a high school sweetheart of mine, for God’s sake,” the conservative source said. “And to only get a letter that says we took your electronic records and we are not going to tell you what we did with them, or if we still have them, we’re not going to tell you anything but that we took them, is very disturbing.”

Last month, the state Supreme Court refused to reverse its earlier decision:

Based on what we see here, Governor Walker should appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Schmitz and his team for potential violations of the law and of prosecutorial ethics. Wisconsin should act to either disband the GAB or to considerably shrink its authority and power at the same time [see update]. These were nothing but police-state tactics to intimidate conservatives from political activism in order to sustain a progressive status quo preferred by the governing class.

Perhaps that’s even more critically necessary since prosecutors now want the US Supreme Court to intervene — and they’re still holding onto all the evidence collected in these raids and surveillance in case they prevail. They may have some hope, as the court turned down an appeal from the victims last May that would have spiked the probe for good. Most likely, though, the Supreme Court will have a great deal of reluctance to getting pulled into a state-level campaign-finance fight, especially one in which the state courts have ruled one party to have been improperly appointed in the first place.

This case isn’t over yet. It may never really be over for the victims of Schmitz and those who took part in the thuggery in Wisconsin.

Update: From Steve Eggleston in the comments: “Already done. The GAB will cease to exist come July 1, and the John Doe process has since been limited to crimes such as rape and murder.” I’d forgotten that Walker had fulfilled his promise on the GAB. Thanks for a most excellent reminder.


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Comments

It is a different country.

Schadenfreude on January 6, 2016 at 2:42 PM

This is a nothing burger compared to what NSA is doing to ALL American citizens. Don’t see too many tears shed over the NSA and don’t recall any articles on HA condemning what the NSA is doing.

they lie on January 6, 2016 at 2:46 PM

Between this and Making a Murderer, Wisconsin is a scary place.

tdarrington on January 6, 2016 at 2:48 PM

Just imagine what conservatives and their families in Wisconsin would have to endure if Prosser lost his fight for the Supreme Court seat against Kloppenburg (sic?). Remember that elderly lady who forgot to send in 8000 votes, resulting in a narrow win because thugs in Madison didn’t know how many fake ballots to manufacture? Yeah, those were the times…

Rix on January 6, 2016 at 2:53 PM

Based on what we see here, Governor Walker should appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Schmitz and his team for potential violations of the law and of prosecutorial ethics. Wisconsin should act to either disband the GAB or to considerably shrink its authority and power at the same time.

Already done. The GAB will cease to exist come July 1, and the John Doe process has since been limited to crimes such as rape and murder.

Steve Eggleston on January 6, 2016 at 2:55 PM

This is just as bad as Lerner’s IRS. Both are existential threats to our system of government. Since nobody will be punished, Democrats will keep pushing it further until we’re full-blown banana republic. Won’t take long.

forest on January 6, 2016 at 2:57 PM

Just imagine what conservatives and their families in Wisconsin would have to endure if Prosser lost his fight for the Supreme Court seat against Kloppenburg (sic?). Remember that elderly lady who forgot to send in 8000 votes, resulting in a narrow win because thugs in Madison didn’t know how many fake ballots to manufacture? Yeah, those were the times…

Rix on January 6, 2016 at 2:53 PM

Speaking of Kloppenburg, she’s back. At the next opportunity after her 2011 defeat, she took care of the main “agnostic” complaint against her (no judicial experience) and got elected to the Madison-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, and now she’s running for Supreme Court again.

Steve Eggleston on January 6, 2016 at 2:57 PM

Ed, Governor Walker recently signed a bill replacing the GAB. DA Chisum should be in prison.

Deano1952 on January 6, 2016 at 2:58 PM

… don’t recall any articles on HA condemning what the NSA is doing.

they lie on January 6, 2016 at 2:46 PM

You must be new here. You might want to look around a little first.

Also, there is a difference between this and the NSA’s surveillance. NSA kept track of register data — the addressing on communications — but (supposedly) not the messages themselves unless they had a FISA warrant for it, on the basis of national security. One can debate the wisdom of that, but the Wisconsin prosecutors weren’t dealing with national security, and they spied on the actual messages without notifying the targets that they were under investigation. That is entirely indefensible.

Ed Morrissey on January 6, 2016 at 2:58 PM

This is just as bad as Lerner’s IRS. Both are existential threats to our system of government. Since nobody will be punished, Democrats will keep pushing it further until we’re full-blown banana republic. Won’t take long.

forest on January 6, 2016 at 2:57 PM

Worse, actually, especially if one rolls John Doe I, which quickly turned into a persecution of everything related to Walker circa 2010, into it much like the DemocRAT Milwaukee County District Attorney rolled everything from John Doe I into John Doe II.

Steve Eggleston on January 6, 2016 at 3:00 PM

Leftists LOVE the fact that leftists prosecutors break the law in order to harass and intimidate conservatives WHILE they simultaneously LOVE the fact that prosecutors REFUSE to seek an indictment of Hillary Clinton.

blink on January 6, 2016 at 3:01 PM

They’re firm believers of not the rule of law, or even the rule of man, but the rule of the Übermensch.

Steve Eggleston on January 6, 2016 at 3:05 PM

Wisconsin also conducted a political prosecution of former Green Bay Packer tight end Mark Chmura when he was falsely accused of sexual assault by Allison McCabe.

The evidence clearly showed he was not guilty, but he was prosecuted under pressure of political correctness.

jaime on January 6, 2016 at 3:05 PM

and they spied on the actual messages without notifying the targets that they were under investigation. That is entirely indefensible.

Not to mention they put out a gag order, but somehow information not favorable to Walker managed to be leaked to the accomplice leftist Wisconsin press!

Deano1952 on January 6, 2016 at 3:10 PM

Between this and Making a Murderer, Wisconsin is a scary place.

tdarrington on January 6, 2016 at 2:48 PM

But we have CHEESE!

JimmyGee on January 6, 2016 at 3:11 PM

In a less-tolerant world, Francis D. Schmitz would be disappeared.

BKeyser on January 6, 2016 at 3:11 PM

Enough to make a Chicago politician blush.

tdarrington on January 6, 2016 at 3:13 PM

But we have CHEESE!

That’s how they get ‘ya. Put you in a fried cheese curd coma, then the Progressives sneak in.

tdarrington on January 6, 2016 at 3:14 PM

Ed, Governor Walker recently signed a bill replacing the GAB.

That should have been just the start. Walker was running as a presidential candidate and he never thought to bring this up in any of his interviews, speeches or debates and link this action to the IRS harassment of conservatives and then to the blanket NSA snooping. If he had run with this festering sore, as Trump picked illegal immigration, he would have been on fire.

Instead he loaded up with expensive nitwit establishment advisors whose only interest was in taking his money and making sure he was no threat to Jeb.

Where was his judgment?

Decaf on January 6, 2016 at 3:16 PM

Another example of creeping tyranny under democrat over site in which no one will be prosecuted. Using the power of government to wage war against your political opponents is expected if you’re a Dem.

antipc on January 6, 2016 at 3:18 PM

If this had been done in Texas to supporters of Wendy Davis, the movie would have been already made and Obama would have sent a battalion of DOJ lawyers to Texas to collect as many scalps as possible.

This is has been so lightly covered by the national press that I would wager less than 5% of the country would have any idea what the phrase “Winsonsin john doe investigation” is referring to.

Atlantian on January 6, 2016 at 3:18 PM

Leftists LOVE the fact that leftists prosecutors break the law in order to harass and intimidate conservatives WHILE they simultaneously LOVE the fact that prosecutors REFUSE to seek an indictment of Hillary Clinton.

blink on January 6, 2016 at 3:01 PM

They also LOVE it when public officials refuse to do their jobs on “moral” grounds if they’re nullifying federal immigration laws or refusing to defend their duly enacted state laws regarding the definition of marriage but one county clerk in Kentucky does the same thing but to deny marriage licenses they completely lose it and demand “rule of law”.

gwelf on January 6, 2016 at 3:18 PM

They may have some hope, as the court turned down an appeal from the victims last May that would have spiked the probe for good.

Eh, I wouldn’t read too much into that. SCOTUS rejects roughly 99% of cert petitions, depending on the year…

thirtyandseven on January 6, 2016 at 3:19 PM

Another example of creeping tyranny under democrat over site in which no one will be prosecuted. Using the power of government to wage war against your political opponents is expected if you’re a Dem.

Yes. Apart from enriching yourself and your friends, if you couldn’t harass you political enemies why would you bother with going to all the trouble of winning office?

Making a difference is code for I want to lord it over all those little people.

Decaf on January 6, 2016 at 3:24 PM

the Supreme Court will have a great deal of reluctance to getting pulled into a state-level campaign-finance fight

No it’s not, it’s a fundamental abrogation of the right against illegal search and seizure and the USSC should smack this whole concept down with a sledgehammer.

But then, this isn’t America anymore.

jnelchef on January 6, 2016 at 3:25 PM

The Fascist-Democrat party.

rbj on January 6, 2016 at 3:28 PM

This is has been so lightly covered by the national press that I would wager less than 5% of the country would have any idea what the phrase “Winsonsin john doe investigation” is referring to.

That’s why I thought Walker had a perfect platform during the debates to bring it to the national audience but he went with “boring and super normal”.

Decaf on January 6, 2016 at 3:28 PM

Speaking of Kloppenburg, she’s back. At the next opportunity after her 2011 defeat, she took care of the main “agnostic” complaint against her (no judicial experience) and got elected to the Madison-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, and now she’s running for Supreme Court again.

Steve Eggleston on January 6, 2016 at 2:57 PM

Whoever came up with the idea of electing judges–you know, the folks whose job is protecting the constitutional rights of the minority against overbearing laws enacted by the majority–must have been unfathomably stupid.

thirtyandseven on January 6, 2016 at 3:29 PM

Between this and Making a Murderer, Wisconsin is a scary place.

tdarrington on January 6, 2016 at 2:48 PM

Nah, about half of them here are complete p*ssies.

M240H on January 6, 2016 at 3:30 PM

Steve Eggleston on January 6, 2016 at 3:05 PM

Curious as to why it’s taking Walker so long to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Schmitz and the others directly involved in the John Doe investigations. Abuse of power / disbarment seem the least that Schmitz and his team did as they conducted their politically motivated witch hunt.

I also hope that every single individual and or organization of those provided notification that they were investigated by Schmitz files an immediate civil lawsuit against Schmitz for the invasion of privacy they were subjected to.

blink on January 6, 2016 at 3:01 PM

gwelf on January 6, 2016 at 3:18 PM

If not for their double standards, the leftists wouldn’t have any standards. They’ve firmly established that the rule of law is entirely subjective based on one’s party affiliation – and that the only code they subscribe to is ‘the ends justifies the means’.

Athos on January 6, 2016 at 3:30 PM

Already done. The GAB will cease to exist come July 1, and the John Doe process has since been limited to crimes such as rape and murder.

Steve Eggleston on January 6, 2016 at 2:55 PM

Until Francis Schmitz is permanently behind bars living at the bottom of an outhouse and all his assets seized and distributed to the victims there is no justice.

Conservatives holding office should be making examples of all leftest that politically go after their enemies. Leftest always go after conservatives in power that break boundaries, conservatives should do no less. Put them in jail, throw away the key, and seize all their assets.

PrettyD_Vicious on January 6, 2016 at 3:35 PM

It looks like the hand slapping did not work. There needs to be more persuasive methods to show the prosecutor that what he is doing is illegal, a Nazi police state action.

TerryW on January 6, 2016 at 3:36 PM

Anybody else get a sponsored varicose vein ad in the story feed? Weird.

Fallon on January 6, 2016 at 3:38 PM

don’t recall any articles on HA condemning what the NSA is doing.

they lie on January 6, 2016 at 2:46 PM

Then you haven’t been paying attention.

In a less-tolerant world, Francis D. Schmitz would be disappeared.

BKeyser on January 6, 2016 at 3:11 PM

But in a just world, he would be on full display. *cough*

GWB on January 6, 2016 at 3:42 PM

Whoever came up with the idea of electing judges–you know, the folks whose job is protecting the constitutional rights of the minority against overbearing laws enacted by the majority–must have been unfathomably stupid.

thirtyandseven on January 6, 2016 at 3:29 PM

Vice having them appointed by whatever politicians are in power at the time? I think that’s a toss-up.

GWB on January 6, 2016 at 3:45 PM

That’s how they get ‘ya. Put you in a fried cheese curd coma, then the Progressives sneak in.

tdarrington on January 6, 2016 at 3:14 PM

Thats true and the main reason I eat cheese every day, slowly building up the amount, and in doing so, build up my tolerance to “cheese induced coma”. They’ll never get me.
*I’m up to about 1 and a half pounds a day now.*

Mimzey on January 6, 2016 at 3:45 PM

Whoever came up with the idea of electing judges–you know, the folks whose job is protecting the constitutional rights of the minority against overbearing laws enacted by the majority–must have been unfathomably stupid.

thirtyandseven on January 6, 2016 at 3:29 PM

Alright let the judges be picked by legislative and executive branches except they are in power because of majority votes.

wifarmboy on January 6, 2016 at 3:46 PM

In a less-tolerant world, Francis D. Schmitz would be disappeared.

BKeyser on January 6, 2016 at 3:11 PM

But in a just world, he would be on full display. *cough*

GWB on January 6, 2016 at 3:42 PM

Like Lenin or Lector.

RickB on January 6, 2016 at 3:47 PM

Vice having them appointed by whatever politicians are in power at the time? I think that’s a toss-up.

GWB on January 6, 2016 at 3:45 PM

Not really–you only get appointed once, and don’t have to worry about re-election (under the US constitutional system). And from a separation of powers standpoint, the executive branch is comparatively less interested in expanding the legislative branch authority, particularly during a divided government.

Appointments are far from perfect, but still far better than asking a majority of wolves to guard the constitutional henhouse–where there are literally no restraints on a tyrannical majority.

thirtyandseven on January 6, 2016 at 3:53 PM

Alright let the judges be picked by legislative and executive branches except they are in power because of majority votes.

wifarmboy on January 6, 2016 at 3:46 PM

See above. Again, while imperfect, that degree of separation is important because it “counteracts ambition with ambition,” to quote James Madison.

thirtyandseven on January 6, 2016 at 3:56 PM

Like Lenin or Lector.

RickB on January 6, 2016 at 3:47 PM

I was thinking more like that Italian guy.

GWB on January 6, 2016 at 4:09 PM

And from a separation of powers standpoint, the executive branch is comparatively less interested in expanding the legislative branch authority,

thirtyandseven on January 6, 2016 at 3:53 PM

WTF, over?!? Where have you been the last several years?!?

I concur that the separation of powers built into the Constitution was a good thing, and it tended to balance out for about 100 years. But, once the progressive game got going, the trend has been ever leftward. And, there has been no recourse once a federal justice has proved himself incapable of grasping the Constitution and the limits of judicial reach. Sure, there’s impeachment – the Founding Fathers screwed up on that one, at least in so far as believing it wouldn’t become all about re-election of the legislative members involved.

My original point in snarking on your comment, though, was your making it seem as if other methods aren’t terribly politically charged, as well. Somehow letting the people pick their judges was uncouth. Sorry, but that’s just poppycok.

GWB on January 6, 2016 at 4:17 PM

Where was his judgment?

Walker was my early favorite. As the campaign got started it quickly became obvious he was not ready for prime time.

I hope we haven’t seen the last of him.

myiq2xu on January 6, 2016 at 4:23 PM

But in a just world, he would be on full display. *cough*

GWB on January 6, 2016 at 3:42 PM

Propped up in a pine box outside the local mercantile? I like it!

antipc on January 6, 2016 at 4:27 PM

In a less-tolerant world, Francis D. Schmitz would be disappeared.

BKeyser on January 6, 2016 at 3:11 PM

That is what should happen, and to the court that appointed him and all the members of the GAB.

earlgrey on January 6, 2016 at 4:35 PM

Currently watching Making a Murderer (even if Avery might be guilty of the second charge), seeing that makes these abuses in Wisconsin seem very believable.

rob verdi on January 6, 2016 at 4:43 PM

Where have you been the last several years?!?

GWB on January 6, 2016 at 4:17 PM

Hence the word “comparatively.”

In any event, surely it’s better to have separation of powers protections that are often ignored than not to have them at all (from a practical perspective, not from a rhetorical nose-to-spite-the-face perspective)?

I agree, obviously, that any judicial selection method will be politically charged to some degree. But that doesn’t mean that all methods are anywhere near equal, and it doesn’t change the fact that letting the majority of people directly decide whether to enforce the constitutional rights of the minority is, well… uncouth. There wouldn’t be much left of the First Amendment these days if the Constitution adopted that approach.

I’d also note that the key distinction between the legislature and the judiciary is that the legislature is empowered to create laws, and the judiciary is empowered to strike them down. While you or I might not always like the way the judiciary selectively exercises its power, I think the real lesson from the last hundred years is that we have far more to fear from too many laws being enacted than from too many laws being struck down.

thirtyandseven on January 6, 2016 at 4:57 PM

I think the real lesson from the last hundred years is that we have far more to fear from too many laws being enacted than from too many laws being struck down.

thirtyandseven on January 6, 2016 at 4:57 PM

I *almost* agree. I would say that one of our biggest problems is the judiciary finding laws that don’t exist and forcing legislatures to adopt them.

Pe4rsonally, I prefer the concept of retention elections. Judges can be appointed (with consent), but they have to be retained by the people. Either that or a term limit so they can’t “grow” in office.

Of course, all this assumes an informed, moral citizenry. Which we no longer have (not enough, anyway). So, method really doesn’t matter that much until that key requirement is restored.

GWB on January 6, 2016 at 5:09 PM

The party of government has everything all stitched up, they use the government for their political purposes; they work in the offices and implement partisan methods and prefer party of government cronies, and make the payoffs. It is hard when they lose an election.

Fleuries on January 6, 2016 at 5:13 PM

Follow the Union money…..

Goodie on January 6, 2016 at 5:20 PM

All those involved in this obviously unconstitutional exercise should be stripped of any forms of immunity that may have been mistakenly extended to their offices, and they should suffer personal financial retribution by all who have had their property seized.
Furthermore, any who hold law licenses should have those stripped with prejudice, and they should be permanently barred from government employment, or office of trust, for life.
For those who may think that what I call for is too severe, I can only say that this is my moderate position. Personally, I think treating them like rabid dogs would be doing them a favor.

Another Drew on January 6, 2016 at 5:41 PM

Personally, I prefer the concept of retention elections. Judges can be appointed (with consent), but they have to be retained by the people. Either that or a term limit so they can’t “grow” in office.

GWB on January 6, 2016 at 5:09 PM

I’m sympathetic to the argument for term limits on appointed judges, because it doesn’t give the judge an incentive to rule based on what’s best for reelection. Still though, I personally like lifetime appointments better because term-limited judges who would otherwise stay on the bench will instead begin to think about just who they’d like to work for when their term expires…

thirtyandseven on January 6, 2016 at 5:49 PM

Electing Judges:
You could do worse than adopting the “progressive” reform used by CA (circa 1910) where judges are appointed by the Governor, subject to State Senate confirmation; but have to run on the ballot for citizen confirmation at regular intervals.
That allowed Dim-bulb Moonbeam to load up the CA Supreme Court with some fan-boys/girls (including the remarkable Rose Bird), and allowed the citizens of CA to vote three of them (including the aforementioned Chief Justice Bird) out on their butts at a later date.

Another Drew on January 6, 2016 at 5:51 PM

Two quick points. There is pressure building for a public integrity investigation by the Wisconsin AG, or having Governor Walker use his power to remove the Milwaukee Country DA.(Yes, the governor of the state of Wisconsin can remove district attorneys for cause.) Both AG and Governor are showing reluctance to do so until the USSC acts. By that time we will be well into the election cycle. Still, the movement to get rid of John Doe has only grown, despite the move in the state to save it.

flackcatcher on January 6, 2016 at 6:19 PM

*I’m up to about 1 and a half pounds a day now.*

Mimzey on January 6, 2016 at 3:45 PM

I’m practicing with baby bells, now I wish they came in baseball size.

aceinstall on January 6, 2016 at 7:53 PM

Someone should be going to prison!

GarandFan on January 6, 2016 at 8:04 PM

I was thinking more like that Italian guy.

GWB on January 6, 2016 at 4:09 PM

Like in that new movie about Jimmy Hoffa – – Under Golden Pond ?

:-)

Lammo on January 7, 2016 at 12:20 AM