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Eric O’Keefe, a director of the Wisconsin Club for Growth, is demanding that a special prosecutor be appointed to investigate Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm (above) “on charges of feloniously using his office for political persecution and personal reward.”

In his letter, he states:

  • Wisconsin law prohibits a district attorney from using the powers and privileges of his office for the financial benefit of himself: his immediate family members, or an organization with which his immediate family members are associated;
  • from using those powers and privileges to obtain an unlawful advantage for third parties-such as political candidates and recall committees;
  • from using information obtained through his official functions for those illegitimate purposes;
  • and from allowing his office to become de facto campaign grounds.

Are these allegations true? They certainly appear to be.

Item #1 – Financial Benefits

The reason for much of the ire directed at Scott Walker stems from the 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, also known as the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill. The bill was designed to address a $3.6 billion dollar budget deficit. However, the people most impacted by the bill were public sector employees, and specifically, public sector unions.

The unions viewed the bill as a “multi-part attack” that would have the following effects:

  • In part one, their ability to bargain benefits for their members is reduced.
  • In part two, their ability to collect dues, and thus spend money organizing members or lobbying the legislature, is undercut.
  • And in part three, workers have to vote the union back into existence every single year.

Although they fought bitterly to defeat it, the passage of the bill was a hammer blow to the public sector unions of Wisconsin. To this day, years after the bill’s passage, “many labor leaders and union members are still fuming about the law.

How does this relate to DA John Chisholm? It’s a matter of public record that Colleen Chisholm, the DA’s wife, was both a union member and a teacher’s union shop steward at St. Francis High school near Milwaukee. The Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill had a direct financial impact on her, her family, and the union which she served. In light of this, DA Chisholm’s decisions to target the author and supporters of the bill are questionable.

Item #2 – Unlawful Advantages

To prove that Chisholm’s actions conferred an advantage for political candidates and recall committees, one need only look at the latest press releases from Walker’s gubernatorial opposition:

Scott Walker is the only Governor in state history to be under criminal investigation for the entirety of his first term in office

…a court record that speaks directly to the fact that Scott Walker was directly involved in criminal activity

Reading that, you’d think Scott Walker was being charged with a crime. But four years and two John Doe’s later, Chisholm has charged Walker with exactly jack squat. On the other hand, the investigations Chisholm launched have been used to convict Walker in the court of public opinion lieu of a trial.

People need to understand that an investigation to find proof of wrongdoing is NOT PROOF of wrongdoing.

Being able to make your opponent look guilty without actually having to prove it is a tremendous advantage during an election. And that is exactly what Wisconsin Democrats are – and have been – doing. However, none of it would have been possible had Chisholm not launched his John Doe investigations.

Item #3 – Using Information Obtained for Illegitimate Purposes

As part of the John Doe investigations, Chisholm targeted and subpoenaed at least 29 Wisconsin conservative groups. These actions not only tied up finances and resources, they also required that the groups divulge almost all communication that had taken place in a several year period, including emails, memoranda, and lists of contributors and donors.

The scope of one of the subpoenas was so extensive, it drew criticism from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which said, “The subpoena issued to O’Keefe is extraordinarily broad, covering essentially all of the group’s records for several years.” And, although the information disclosed was supposed to be kept secret, sensitive information, including donor lists and strategy, managed to find its way to the public. That’s nothing new.

In fact, the John Doe investigations have been leaking secret information for years:

One legal expert tells Wisconsin Reporter that whoever is leaking information to the media appears to be connected to the John Doe probe, and could pay a legal price for doing what such secret investigations strictly prohibit on penalty of jail time — talking.

Would reading your opponent’s emails, identifying their donors, and finding out their political strategies be advantageous during an election? Of course it would. But getting that information by way of a secret investigation would clearly be illegitimate.

Item #4 – Allowing his Office to Become a de facto Campaign Grounds

In his letter, O’Keefe alleges that Chisholm used his offices to improperly influence an election, stating that the DA’s offices:

…became essentially a campaign ground against Walker and for his recall opponent … that political paraphernalia covered the walls of that office space and that [Chisholm’s] subordinates were vocal in advancing their political views, evidently in that space. As Milwaukee County District Attorney, you have control over that space and are required to “prohibit the entry of any person into that building” for the purpose of helping elect or defeat a candidate for office.

If true, this allegation would be especially egregious because during the first John Doe investigation, John Chisholm aggressively pursued and prosecuted Kelly Rindfleisch for campaigning on government time. Initially, DA Chisholm offered “Rindfleisch immunity should she divulge information on Walker that might be helpful to the investigation.” However, when the information she provided was not to his liking, he prosecuted her instead and upped the charge from misdemeanor to felony misconduct.

The crime? Responding to campaign emails while at work. Rindfleisch “noted that she used her own computer, phone and email, although she didn’t leave the government building to do so.” As a result, she was sentenced to six months in jail and three years probation, a decision she is now appealing.

The specific charge which Chisholm says Rindfleisch violated was Section 946.12 of state law which “barred public officials from acting in a way that is contrary to their duties and confers a ‘dishonest advantage’ on themselves or others.” If Chisholm is in fact using his staff and offices as O’Keefe alleges, not only would it be a galling display of hypocrisy, it would also be a far more serious breach than the one for which he prosecuted Rindfleisch. And if he’s found guilty of it, he would deserve to face much more time.

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