Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Brad Schimel Strikes Out Again

His 11-month investigation of John Doe leaks yields no charges but lots of anger.

By - Dec 12th, 2017 12:54 pm
Brad Schimel. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

Brad Schimel. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

Brad Schimel has embarrassed himself. Again.

Back in January 2016 his office investigated allegations of a voter fraud conspiracy by the controversial right-wing hit man James O’Keefe and concluded there was no evidence of “any violations” of the law. But after O’Keefe threatened to go after Schimel for his decision, the attorney general, the state’s top legal officer, chickened out and announced that the investigation his office had said was completed was actually… still continuing. That was seven months ago and the re-investigation has yet to be completed.

Now he’s done it again. Back in September 2016, the British paper the Guardian published documents from a now-defunct John Doe investigation which embarrassed Republican Gov. Scott Walker, exposing how his campaign colluded with supposedly independent groups like Wisconsin Club for Growth. Walker’s longtime advisor R.J. Johnson, who held positions both with the Walker campaign and Club for Growth, suggested Schimel should investigate who leaked the documents, but the Attorney General didn’t seem eager to do so, as the Journal Sentinel’s Patrick Marley reported.

But after being pushed by the conservative on the issue, Schimel began to talk tougher. By late October he was asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to appoint a court official to investigate the leaks, but the court wanted no part of it and turned him down. But Republican legislators passed a special law authorizing Schimel to investigate in December 2016, and the AG duly went to work.

Last week, after nearly a year-long probe, Schimel issued his findings: The state Department of Justice, his report concluded, “does not currently possess proof beyond a reasonable doubt necessary to convict any particular person of a criminal offense at this time.”

In short Schimel had nothing. You might think he would leave it there. Instead he issued an 89-page-report filled with angry opinions and unproven assertions. He lists nine individuals he suggests should be charged with contempt of court, led by former John Doe special prosecutor Francis Schmitz and former Government Accountability Board (GAB) executive Kevin Kennedy. But Schimel offers no evidence for why they should be so charged while saying he will be sending a letter to the John Doe judge about this.

That’s right, the state’s top legal official publicly shames these nine people without ever proving they are guilty of contempt of court.

Schimel also recommends that former GAB staffer Shane Falk be referred to the state Office of Lawyer Regulation for discipline, because it was his hard drive that likely contained the leaked documents, but Schimel admits he cannot prove Falk leaked them.

That’s all Schimel has. The rest of 88-page-report is a rant apparently intended to shame members of the GAB and convince us the John Doe probe was outrageous. Thus he complains about how “broad” the probe was and lists 218 examples of search warrants and subpoenas to make this point. But if search warrants or subpoenas were issued, they were approved by judges and obviously legal and only wrong in the mind of Brad Schimel.

Schimel also provides a list of 35 people who GAB staff investigated and compiled significant information on. He offers no evidence to believe there wasn’t probable cause for these investigations. But worse, the vast majority of these names have never been publicly revealed, and never would have, as the Doe probe was halted nearly three years ago. Their names are now known — and suspicion cast on them — only because Schimel chose to release this reckless report.

Schimel claims the GAB was involved in another John Doe probe, and announces: “For ease of reference, this report will identify this previously unknown investigation as ‘John Doe III.’”

That remarkable claim would be quite newsworthy if true. But he provides no evidence a third Doe probe — which would have required approval from a judge — existed. Instead he reports that GAB prosecutors believed some “state employees were campaigning on state time” and may have helped Republican candidates in the 2010 and 2012 election and had compiled files on this. But under the law the GAB was supposed to investigate election law violations. Schimel instead leaps to the bizarre conclusion that the GAB had launched a third Doe probe.

Schimel certainly provides reason to believe the GAB was careless in how it handled the Doe case files, but that’s not a crime, and may partly reflect confusion caused by the disbanding of the GAB and its replacement by two different offices, the state Ethics Commission and Elections Commission.

Schimel goes into great detail describing the alleged lack of security in the GAB office, without comparing this to the security of any other state office, or discussing what it might have cost taxpayers to make the building more secure. For instance, “GAB did not install security cameras in its office space or the storage area.” Do the ethics and elections commissions now have security cameras? Schimel doesn’t say.

The problem with this lack of security, we are supposed to conclude, is that it was easy for documents to be leaked to the Guardian. But I would invite readers to read the Guardian story and decide whether that was so bad: the story documents how Walker’s campaign colluded with the Club for Growth to evade laws which restricted direct donations by corporations and limited the amount individuals could donate. Surely any citizen who cares about democracy would invite such transparency.

Ah, but the leak of these documents was expressly forbidden by the state Supreme Court and was illegal. True, but so was the leak of information by anyone being investigated in the Doe probe. And yet Schimel has refused to investigate Club for Growth leader Eric O’Keefe, who leaked information to the press and admitted he violated a court-issued secrecy order “in some form every day”.

Whatever their reasons for leaking information to the media (both O’Keefe and the person leaking to the Guardian no doubt thought they were doing the right thing), both were acting illegally. For Schimel to prosecute one and not the other shows an unwillingness to enforce the law equally.

Schimel’s report contends that lawyers with the GAB — some of whom had years, even decades of experience overseeing elections in the state — did not understand the law. His proof for this is risible: because the Wisconsin Supreme Court later ruled against the John Doe probe and concluded a campaign was free to collude with independent advocacy groups.

But during the entire time the Doe probe was conducted, the law in Wisconsin as it was then understood (and as it continues to be interpreted in most states in America) was that such collusion was illegal. Indeed the Doe probe was a bipartisan investigation conducted by special prosecutor Schmitz, a longtime Republican who voted for Walker in the 2012 recall election, included two Republican district attorneys helping in the investigation and involved work by four judges, three of whom had Republican backgrounds.

Schimel concludes the “GAB attorneys did not act in a detached and professional manner” and “had prejudged the guilt of Governor Walker, Wisconsin Republicans, and related organizations that they were investigating.” Certainly that appears to be true of Falk, but it would hardly be surprising if lawyers involved in prosecuting what they believed to be a crime would hold strong opinions, just as the attorneys defending Club for Growth held strong opinions to the contrary.

And frankly, none of this matters, given that the GAB was disbanded back in June 2016, and none of the things Schimel complains about violated the law. As attorney general, his job is to prosecute crimes and interpret the law when needed. Instead we get pages and pages of partisan fulminating that will lead to no prosecutions and no changes in how the law is interpreted. All very heated and quite irrelevant, with a cost to taxpayers that has yet to be tabulated. I requested that information from Schimel’s office and have gotten no reply.

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Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

11 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Brad Schimel Strikes Out Again”

  1. Terry says:

    So disgusting!
    Dump Walker 2018!
    Dump Schimel!
    Dump the whole rotten GOP!

  2. fightingbobfan says:

    Wow! This guy is a putz.

  3. David Blaska says:

    You make excuses for a state agency abusing its police powers, battering rams at the ready, to conduct pre-dawn raids on the homes of private citizens, hold those citizens — some of them children — incommunicado, so that said state agency can conduct “Opposition Research”? Collect hundreds of thousands of their private e-mails? You worry that these public officials are being “shamed”? You cry for Eric O’Keefe’s hide for complaining about this partisan witch hunt? You criticize Schimel for helping us understand the scope was even broader than originally thought? That a third, double secret John Doe investigation was underway despite court orders?

    All so Government can dictate who may speak, what they may say and when they may say it.

    You think issue groups like the environmentalists, teachers unions, and Teamsters weren’t colluding in the Republican recall elections? You have no sense of proportionality? A crime was committed. Page 77: “The Leak Was a Crime.” No charges are being brought against the individual suspected of the crime because the crucial evidence — the hard drive — went missing.

  4. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    Oh hey look! Just like how the J-S showed that Schimel LIED about Dan Bice’s wife, the GAB says Schimel had numerous “omissions and inaccuracies” in his report on the John Doe leak.

    And the dimwit is still arguing that the DOJ is qualified to defend Tony Evers. This is despite the obvious conflict of interest, given that Schimel takes “assistance” from the same Bradley Foundation that filed the lawsuit (and I’d love Evers to sue for discovery to show those connections).

    Brad Schimel works for his corporate benefactors, and tries to gear his investigations to support the garbage laid out by the RW GOPperganda machine (Hi WHAAAA-ska!).

    FIRE THIS BUM IN 2018.

  5. fightingbobfan says:

    “You think issue groups like the environmentalists, teachers unions, and Teamsters weren’t colluding in the Republican recall elections?”


    Back when we had rules, when the election started up, up went the walls. There were times where three groups would work a neighborhood because we couldn’t tell each other where we were canvassing.

    Given Walker’s lack of ethics, no surprise he would think violating the rules is OK.

  6. Bill Sweeney says:

    It is one thing to slander people before the results of an investigation are completed. It is loathsome for anyone, especially the State Attorney General, to slander people after the results of his own investigation concludes that the state “does not currently possess proof beyond a reasonable doubt necessary to convict any particular person of a criminal offense at this time.” Thanks Mr Murphy for bringing some clarity to the muddled way that this story was presented in the media.

  7. Crazy Chester says:

    For a good laugh, read Christian Schneider’s tinfoil-hat column on jsonline about the latest John Doe “revelations”. You’d have thought Alex Jones had written it. (Looks like Blaska is drinking from the same hallucinogenic tea pot).

  8. old baldy says:

    As per usual, blaska really doesn’t have a clue as to how a warrant works. No surprise there. They were dealing with a criminal investigation and there is a need to preserve evidence since the parties being investigated were notoriously and willfully trying to CYA. That is how a warrant works.

    Odd that you would applaud O’Keefe for breaking the law but condemn the JD for investigating the crimes.

    Schimel sold his soul when he let Jensen off the hook, so we shouldn’t be surprised at anything that spineless slug does.

  9. daniel golden says:

    In response to the ever faithful member of the Republican cult David Blaska: As a former prosecutor I am disgusted and appalled by Brad Schimel and his litany of half truths, false hoods and outright lies in his press release. A third John Doe? Commencing a John Doe requires a petition and complaint alleging probable cause that a crime has been committed. There is no such court filing and any reference to one is a lie. Further, if “a leak is a crime” what does not Schimel go after the low hanging fruit? Lets start with Eric O’Keefe, a party to an real John Doe, not an imaginary one, who bragged about leaking confidential material to the Wall Street Journal on a regular basis from that actual John Doe. In David Blaska’s Orwellian world, apparently it is only a crime if the other side is accused of doing it, not if one of his fellow cult members admits doing it. Schimel is an ongoing embarrassment to ethical prosecutors. Schimel’s every decision is governed by a desire to please his right wing masters, and his sworn duty to pursue justice is at most a mere inconvenience to his hyper-partisan decision making.

  10. will says:

    Alabama has nothing over Wisconsin as a good old boys and pay to play. Just look at Kwik Trip donating 90,000 tp Walker and gets 21 million in free tax dollars. Wisconsin is the new corrupt third world government.

  11. David Blaska says:

    Daniel Golden wants to prosecute Eric O’Keefe, the victim of the illegal speech police clampdown, and not the speech police even after three different courts ordered a stop to the star chamber: those of circuit judge James Peterson, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and on appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court.

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