The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the John Doe probe, which targeted conservative groups, is over. Many are calling it a huge win for Gov. Scott Walker, who announced his campaign for President on Monday, and whose network of supporters were at the center of the investigation.
The politically motivated search that lasted over three years, was ruled Thursday to be an overreach of Milwaukee County District Attorney, John Chisholm’s office. Chisholm secretly investigated conservative groups and donors who backed Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign during the 2012 recall election, Eric Boehm writes for Watchdog.org.
Justice Michael Gableman, writing for the majority opinion stated:
“To be clear, this conclusion ends the John Doe investigation because the special prosecutor’s legal theory is unsupported in either reason or law.”
This is a big deal not only for conservatives, who can support Walker without fear of retribution, but also for free speech. The John Doe saga coming to a close is more significant for Walker than merely smoothing out a bump in the road to becoming the Republican nominee. The investigation is emblematic of his tenure in public office.
Let’s backup to three years ago, during the 2012 recall election. After he restricted union’s collective bargaining powers, it spurred many to get him recalled from office. During the recall election, secret investigations into conservative organizations happened simultaneously, striking fear into his supporters. The John Doe probe, which is named thusly because there is no one specific suspect in mind, was to find evidence of collusion between issue advocacy groups and the Walker campaign. Pre-dawn raids descended upon the homes of conservative activists.
National Review recently detailed what it was like to be on the receiving end of one such raid, including a 16-year-old boy who was home alone when the police came to search his family’s home:
To his horror, he saw uniformed officers, their guns drawn. “Police,” they yelled. “We have a warrant.” An officer shined a flashlight on a document Jonah couldn’t read. Unsure what to do, but unwilling to defy the authorities, he let them in. The officers sat him down, read him the entire search warrant, and ordered him not to tell anyone about the raid — not even school officials. He asked if he could call his parents. They said no. He asked if he could call a lawyer. They said no. Then, they proceeded to turn his house “upside down.”
Despite the harrowing John Doe probe and opponents efforts to get him ousted from Madison, Walker became the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election. He raised nearly 10 times the amount his opponent did, and secured a rolodex of donors and supporters that will help him during his campaign for the White House.
The raids of 2012 weren’t the only time Walker’s supporters were targeted by a John Doe probe. The first occurred during his bid for Governor, in 2010, which probed supporters during his time as county executive. Then after 2011, the probe took a turn for the weird. Matt Kittle, of Watchdog.org, who broke many of the developments throughout the John Doe saga, writes:
Chisholm’s wife, a public school teacher and union leader, was so upset over Act 10 that Chisholm made his John Doe investigation a personal vendetta against Walker, according to a former special prosecutor who claims he was a member of Chisholm’s “inner circle” in 2011.
Walker is used to this spooky level of political opposition during elections, his past three bids for office were riddled with raids and gag-orders. As others have pointed out in the past, including Brandon Finnigan, the more ammunition that comes Walker’s way, the stronger he seems to get. Finnegan noted that the recall completely backfired, and turned a “college dropout into a potential Republican rock star.” Indeed, it will be interesting to see how his campaign reacts to John Doe being put to bed once and for all.