MacIver News Service | Dec. 8, 2017
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON, Wis. – A Wisconsin lawmaker who co-authored legislation that reformed Wisconsin’s controversial John Doe investigation law says he believes state Attorney General Brad Schimel does have the evidence to prosecute the perpetrators of the unconstitutional, secret probe into conservatives.
“I think some of the people involved in the Government Accountability Board and the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office, for them to skate free without real consequences, without being prosecuted, may be a miscarriage of justice,” Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst), told MacIver News Service Friday morning on the Jay Weber Show.
Why do we have a justice system, Tiffany mused, if there aren’t any consequences, particularly for government officials shown to have violated the public trust?
To date, none of the investigators, prosectors, or attorneys at the former Government Accountability Board have been charged in connection with what Tiffany described as one of the darkest chapters in Wisconsin history.The report found that John Doe investigators held onto thousands of documents, some of them filed as “Opposition Research,” long after they were supposed to have been turned over to the Supreme Court. #wiright #wipolitics #JohnDoe… Click To Tweet
This week, the state Department of Justice released an extensive and troubling report on John Doe documents illegally leaked in September 2016 to the liberal Guardian news publication. The Guardian story pushed the left’s false narrative that Republican Gov. Scott Walker and conservative groups illegally coordinated during Wisconsin’s bitter recall elections of 2011 and 2012.
Findings like those contained in the Department of Justice’s report have shown that the partisan staffers at the “non-partisan” Government Accountability Board and the Democrat-led Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office engaged in a politically motivated spying operation on scores of Republicans and just about every right-of-center group in the state. The investigation was declared unconstitutional and ordered shut down in 2015 by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The report found that John Doe investigators held onto thousands of documents, some of them filed as “Opposition Research,” long after they were supposed to have been turned over to the Supreme Court.Falk told the Journal Sentinel that he did not know why some files were labeled “Opposition Research.” #wiright #wipolitics #JohnDoe #JohnDoe3 Click To Tweet
Shane Falk, a lead GAB attorney on the case, saved thousands of John Doe documents on a hard drive that has gone missing, according to the DOJ report.
Falk, who once publicly testified that the GAB needed to find ways around the First Amendment to go after issue advocacy, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he has asked the Office of Lawyer Regulation to review what he described as false allegations from the attorney general.
“Of course, it is not true, but with how he (Schimel) cherry picked emails in his report, it doesn’t seem that way,” Falk said.
Interestingly, cherry picked is how conservatives described the 1,300 documents leaked to the Guardian to feed the left’s narrative that Walker and his allies were engaged in a “criminal scheme.”
Schimel has recommended Falk be referred to the Office of Lawyer Regulation for disciplinary action.
Falk told the Journal Sentinel that he did not know why some files were labeled “Opposition Research.” Despite the fact that the material involved electronic communications seized by John Doe investigators, Falk audaciously suggested that Republicans labeled the folders.
“We didn’t change folder names and such, so I suspect it was the Republicans who set that up,” he told the newspaper in an email. The publication did not challenge that assertion. “I have no idea about anything anymore. I left the GAB in August 2014, turned over everything then, and haven’t had access since.”
Falk took a position with Madison law firm Lawton & Cates in August 2014, not long after he quit his job at the GAB. He left Lawton & Cates in October of this year, a law firm official told MacIver News Service. It is not clear whether Falk departed voluntarily.
Schimel is recommending the John Doe judge initiate contempt proceedings against several current and former government agents. But he is not filing charges, he said, in large part because the GAB’s shoddy record-keeping and failure to secure sealed documents means his agency cannot, beyond a shadow of a doubt, say who leaked to the Guardian. The DOJ’s investigation did find that the leak likely came from the GAB.
Tiffany said sloppiness is no excuse for government officials spying on citizens and raiding their homes in an unconstitutional investigation.
“Is that a reason to not prosecute people?” the senator asked.
The Department of Justice report details a litany of violations potentially committed by the GAB and prosecutors, including misconduct in public office and privacy abuses.
Perhaps a strong case could be made for obstruction of justice.
Schimel related the struggle DOJ agents went through to get John Doe investigators to turn over information.
After repeatedly being told that the state Ethics Commission, the GAB’s successor, had complied with the DOJ’s request for any remaining John Doe files, agents repeatedly came up with holes in their investigative jigsaw puzzle. They eventually had to obtain a search warrant.
Schimel said he never considered raiding Falk’s home to search for John Doe documents or the missing hard drive.
“We don’t have probable cause to say it’s in Shane Falk’s house,” he said. Besides, Schimel said he didn’t want his agents doing what lawless government agents have done.
If the John Doe officers named in the DOJ report signed affidavits falsely stating that they complied with the Supreme Court order to turn over all documents, they are guilty of a class H perjury felony, according to Wisconsin statute.
Tiffany said the state Supreme Court can and should take action against the John Doe investigators. The court has been loathe to move against the prosecutors, even with mounting evidence they ignored or disregarded court orders.
“I think the attorney general is accurate in saying that the Supreme Court can have a role in this. Some of the orders they put out were defied,” Tiffany said. “I think the Supreme Court should go back and look at this case very closely. I think they have very good reason to consider contempt charges.”
Sen. Dave Craig (R-Town of Vernon), who worked with Tiffany on the John Doe reform law, plans to soon release legislation that would create a bicameral legislative committee, with rare subpoena power to investigate the investigators of the John Doe probe. He said the attorney general’s report will only hasten that drive.
“I think at the end of the day you have to have at least a piece of legislation that does create that committee, that does compel testimony, that does force bureaucrats, current and former, to appear before a legislative committee, swear an oath to tell the truth or assert their Fifth Amendment rights,” Craig told MacIver News Service Friday on the Jay Weber Show. “There’s still a lot of stuff out there that we don’t know about.”
Listen to MacIver News Service’s interview with Sen. Tom Tiffany on News/Talk 1130 here:
Listen to the interview with Sen. Dave Craig here: