Process as punishment …
I’d heard of this a while back, but until Darleen forwarded me this reminder, I don’t think I ever covered it here — one of the pitfalls of having to follow a political system whose corruption is so endemic it daily threatens to reach critical mass and just implode, leaving nothing behind but a giant pile of flag lapel pins, wingtips, and the occasional cardinal colored pant suit and set of veneers.
Astonishingly — and I don’t say this as a good thing, though the outcome was certain good and right; I’m astonished that it was recognized as such by a Wisconsin court — free speech was able to defeat the leftist forces that increasingly line up against it, seeking to keep alive the idea of free speech while daily working to use all sort of legal and procedural and bureaucratic and public market forces to shut it down if it happens to run afoul of their preferred narratives.
Chalk up a big victory for the First Amendment. On Friday a Wisconsin judge struck a major blow for free political speech when he quashed subpoenas to conservative groups and ordered the return of property to the targets of a so-called John Doe campaign-finance probe.
John Doe probes operate much like grand juries, allowing prosecutors to issue subpoenas and conduct searches while gag orders require the targets to keep quiet. We wrote about the kitchen-sink subpoenas and morning raids by special prosecutor Francis Schmitz that targeted dozens of conservative groups that participated in the battle to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker (“Wisconsin Political Speech Raid,” Nov. 16, 2013).
Now we learn that Judge Gregory A. Peterson ruled on Friday that at least some of those subpoenas were improper. They “do not show probable cause that the moving parties committed any violations of the campaign finance laws,” he wrote. His opinion remains under seal but we obtained a copy.
A free speech victory ruling that remains under seal. Wow. Do we ever have more work to do.
But I digress.
The quashed subpoenas were sent to Friends of Scott Walker, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Inc., the Wisconsin Club for Growth, and Citizens for a Strong America, as well as their officers and directors. Judge Peterson’s order doesn’t apply to other subpoena targets, but they can presumably get the same result if they file a motion with the judge and have a similar factual basis.
The order is all the more remarkable because it bluntly rejects the prosecutor’s theory of illegal coordination between the groups and the Walker campaign. Wisconsin’s campaign finance statutes ban coordination between independent groups and candidates for a “political purpose.” But a political purpose “requires express advocacy,” the judge wrote, and express advocacy means directly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate.
“There is no evidence of express advocacy” and therefore “the subpoenas fail to show probable cause that a crime was committed,” Judge Peterson wrote. Even “the State is not claiming that any of the independent organizations expressly advocated” for the election of Mr. Walker or his opponent, he added. Instead they did “issue advocacy,” which focuses on specific political issues.
This means that prosecutors essentially invented without evidence the possibility of criminal behavior to justify the subpoenas and their thuggish tactics. At least three targets had their homes raided at dawn, with police turning over belongings, seizing computers and files, and even barring phone calls.
The judge’s order vindicates our suspicion that the John Doe probe is a political operation intended to shut up Mr. Walker’s allies as he seeks re-election this year. No one has taken public credit for appointing the special prosecutor, but we know the probe began in the office of Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf.
Mr. Landgraf works for Milwaukee County Democratic D.A. John Chisholm, and this is their second secret probe of Mr. Walker. The first one ended with small-time violations against Walker aides but didn’t touch the Governor.
As Chris Christie is learning, the left is not interested in bipartisanship, reaching across the aisle, and uses the neediness of a mushy “center rightest” searching for DC acceptance and plaudits to lure him in and then, when the time comes, bring out the long knives.
The RINOs will never understand this, because they take the phony comity and cocktail party invites and insular collegiality seriously, as part of a ruling class convention, a sign of having been accepted as part of the elect. And that often holds true until it’s time for a particular threat to be eliminated — and all that takes is some small opening, some crack, some opportunity to seize on a scandal or perceived scandal.
Listen, and understand. The Marxists are there! They can’t be bargained with. They can’t be reasoned with. They don’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop, ever, until liberty is dead.
If saying so — and even more, believing so, without an ounce of doubt — marks me as an unhelpful extremist or fringe lunatic, so be it. But when the time comes, it won’t be me who’s all shot up at a police barracks. Instead, I plan to be the one turning these relentless, single-minded marauders into the raw material to use in somebody’s modernist industrial backsplash.
That is, if I can get my hands on a hydraulic press, and the need itself arises.