The nastiest political tactic this year

Gangster government — Michael Barone’s description of using government machinery to punish political opponents or reward supporters — has stained Wisconsin, illustrating this truth: The regulation of campaigns in the name of political hygiene (combating “corruption” or the “appearance” of it) inevitably involves bad laws and bad bureaucracies susceptible to abuse by bad people.

Because of Chisholm’s recklessness, the candidate he is trying to elect, Burke, can only win a tainted victory, and if she wins she will govern with a taint of illegitimacy. No known evidence demonstrates any complicity in ­Chisholm’s scheme, but in a smarmy new ad she exploits his manufactured atmosphere of synthetic scandal in a manner best described as McCarthyite. Indeed, one probable purpose of Chisholm’s antics was to generate content for anti-Walker ads.

Wisconsin can repair its reputation by dismantling the “John Doe” process and disciplining those who have abused it. About one of them, this can be said: Having achieved political suppression by threatening criminal liability based on vague theories of “coordination,” Chisholm has inadvertently but powerfully made the case for deregulating politics.