The Wisconsin John Doe affair is one of the more shameful episodes in modern American political history, in which a hyper-partisan Democrat district attorney weaponized the Wisconsin legal system against innocent families as part of a vicious and unhinged political crusade against conservatives. An assembly line of rubber-stamped search warrants and subpoenas, early-morning raids, threats from police officers to keep quiet, wanton property seizure: “I no longer feel safe,” one victim said, “and I don’t think I ever will.”
The victims received such treatment simply because they dared to hold political opinions offensive to Wisconsin Democrats.
Injecting a measure of sanity into the whole sleazy affair, the Wisconsin Supreme Court last year ordered the investigation halted and the seized evidence destroyed. “It is utterly clear,” wrote Justice Gableman, “that the special prosecutor has employed theories of law that do not exist in order to investigate citizens who were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing.” Later they would amend the order slightly: instead of destroying the evidence, it was to be sealed and turned over to the court.
The court order was entirely reasonable. After they shockingly abused the investigatory apparatus of the Wisconsin state government, the John Doe squad’s evidence could reasonably be considered corrupted. But someone involved in the whole affair ignored the court order and leaked a set of sealed documents to The Guardian. The documents allegedly show “the pervasive influence of corporate cash in the democratic process” as well as “the extraordinary lengths to which politicians, lobbyists and even judges go to solicit money.”
Stop the presses, everyone, The Guardian has the scoop: politicians are desperate for campaign cash!
The leaked documents do not appear to expose any criminal misconduct by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. They do show the same old story of the American political landscape: a Democratic Party and a liberal establishment that regularly engages in criminal political misconduct and abject political persecution of its opponents.
It is clear that someone involved in the John Doe investigation, incensed that a court had slapped down his or her gross abuse of state power, decided to disobey a court order and attempt one final time to destroy Walker’s political career. It will not work, of course—Walker appears to have done nothing actionable—but the leak is nonetheless troubling, chiefly because it underscores yet again the persistent lawlessness of much of American liberalism.
This is not an aberration. Much of modern American liberalism’s tactics rest upon a vicious set of double standards and abuses of government power. The IRS’s targeting of political opponents; its maltreatment of conservative advocacy groups; the targeting of conservative politicians; the proposals to persecute climate-change skeptics; the tactical lawsuits to punish pro-life advocacy—it is all of a piece, all meant to silence conservative voices and stymie conservative political efforts.
The obvious flouting of the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s ruling is more of the same. The point of both the John Doe scandal and the latest document leak is to frighten and embarrass conservatives into shutting up. Breaking the law is clearly no impediment for liberals in this case. What matters is making the Right scared to assert itself in politics and contentious public debates.
Walker took on the public unions of Wisconsin, and he has paid for it with years of harassment, headaches, and public embarrassment. Assuredly it has been a rough ride. But he provides a worthwhile example to follow: rather than fold in the face of this unprincipled assault, he refused to back down. Conservatives should resolve to do the same, because these dishonest liberal tactics aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.