Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

17 Biggest Mistakes by Brad Schimel

Media feasting on problems in John Doe report. Here’s a scorecard of biggest goofs.

By - Dec 19th, 2017 01:34 pm
Brad Schimel. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

Brad Schimel. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

It was back on December 6 that Attorney General Brad Schimel released his report on the John Doe probe that condemned the investigators and called for contempt-of-court proceedings against nine officials involved in the probe. The media duly reported his findings.

Urban Milwaukee meanwhile offered two columns, here and here, finding huge problems with the Department of Justice (DOJ) report, including the fact that Schimel disclosed the names of people investigated in the secret probe but never charged, names that never would have been revealed if the state’s top legal officer hadn’t done so. That led the Wisconsin State Journal to look into problems with Schimel’s report, verifying some of the issues noted by Urban Milwaukee, and soon the rest of the media jumped aboard.

In short, it’s become increasingly clear the DOJ report is one huge screw-up — but a very complicated one. So to make it easier to understand just how ridiculous this report is, we present our scorecard of the worst errors by the attorney general. More or less in reverse order, starting with the least egregious, they are:

17: Claiming investigators were doing “opposition research.” That’s right, lawyers for the Government Accountability Board (GAB), run by a bipartisan board of retired judges, were supposedly doing opposition research on Republicans. The proof for this is a file labeled “opposition research” that Schimel’s team found. But these folders were labeled that way when they were received by the GAB, former staff told Schimel, something the report left out.

16. Defaming Sonya Bice. The report offers a footnote suggesting Sonya Bice, who once worked as an aide to a state supreme court justice, informed her husband, Journal Sentinel reporter Dan Biceof an “unannounced” visit to the court by the DOJ. But the visit occurred some 16 months after Sonya Bice’s job there ended. And no, Schimel never checked this with her.

15. Defaming Shirley Abrahamson. That would be Supreme Court Justice Abrahamson, one of the longest serving such judges in America. Schimel suggests there was something nefarious about her checking on some of the John Doe evidence, without specifying what she did wrong or bothering to check with her. “My only involvement was to make sure the boxes were fully sealed and a log had been checked,” she told the Journal Sentinel. “At no time did I review the contents of those sealed boxes.”

14. Defaming Brian Bell and David Buerger. Schimel’s report calls the two member of the state Ethics Commission uncooperative because they dared to hire a lawyer when questioned by DOJ investigators. That’s right, a lawyer is complaining about someone hiring an attorney. Worse, it was the bipartisan Ethics Commission’s board that decided Bell and Buerger should have representation, the Commission noted.

13. Making other unwarranted attacks on state Ethics Commission. The report claims commission staff withheld evidence and didn’t report the leak of secret Doe materials to the media after it occurred; but as the commission’s bipartisan letter to Schimel has noted, “Our staff promptly provided all requested records” and couldn’t possibly have leaked materials as they never had access to the information.

12. Refusing to correct claims about Ethics Commission. Schimel hasn’t contested several corrections offered by the bipartisan commission, yet has refused to correct the report, declaring “The Wisconsin Department of Justice stands by the attorney general’s report.” In short, Schimel stands behind himself.

11. Concocting a Phony Attack on Leah Vukmir: The report waxes indignant about Doe investigators going through the private emails of the Republican state senator, allegedly for no reason. But as Data Wonk columnist Bruce Thompson has noted, the emails in question appear to have been part of the John Doe I investigation which resulted in six convictions, and were probably office emails of Vukmir’s assistant Josh Hoisington, which were checked as part of an email thread in that investigation. Retired Judge Neal Nettesheim, who oversaw the John Doe I investigation, told the State Journal “I was satisfied at the time and remain satisfied that all the areas that were probed in John Doe I were legitimate and proper.” And Schimel offers no reason to dispute this.

10: Refusing to disclose costs of the probe. Schimel’s office hasn’t responded to Urban Milwaukee’s request to reveal the cost of his office’s 11-month investigation and has yet to disclose this to anyone in the media.

9. Falsely claiming Doe probe had no discernible limit. To prove how “broad” the probe was, Schimel lists 218 examples of search warrants and subpoenas. But if search warrants or subpoenas were issued, they were approved by judges and obviously legal. Schimel’s report offers not one example of any investigatory probes not pre-approved by a judge.

8. Mixing up files of different investigations. The report created lists of information that mixed up at least three different probes, not bothering to distinguish between Doe I, Doe II and investigations of campaign finance irregularities by the GAB.

7. Misunderstanding the role of the GAB. Schimel wrongly concluded that the GAB’s investigation of whether state employees were campaigning on state time was part of the John Doe probe. He apparently has no clue what the GAB duties were and never bothered to ask any former staff members.

6. Falsely claiming there was a “John Doe III” probe. Schimel actually made up this name to describe the GAB investigation of potential campaign finance violations that he didn’t understand. As the Wisconsin State Journal has reported, this was a 16-month GAB investigation that concluded in March 2013 after finding no violations of the law and which had nothing to do with the John Doe probe.

5. Wrongly claiming GAB attorneys didn’t understand election law. Considering Schimel didn’t understand the duties of the GAB, that’s rich, but it becomes downright hilarious when you consider his proof: because the Wisconsin Supreme Court later ruled against the John Doe probe and concluded a campaign was free to collude with independent advocacy groups, the Doe probe therefore misinterpreted the law. 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) was that such collusion was illegal. Indeed the Doe probe was a bipartisan investigation conducted by special prosecutor Francis 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. Apparently they all didn’t understand the law.

4. Not enforcing the law equally against all leakers. The entire point of Schimel’s investigation was to enforce the law against leaking information in violation of court order. And yet he refused to investigate conservative 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”.

3. Accusing people of contempt of court without offering proof. Schimel lists nine people that he recommends should be charged with contempt of court, led by Schmitz and former and GAB executive Kevin Kennedy. Leaving aside the fact that Schmitz has told the media Schimel inaccurately describes his actions, and leaving aside the fact the state Supreme Court expressly chose not to pursue any contempt of court action, Schimel never offers his case for why a court should pursue this. Instead he has sent a sealed letter to the Doe judge making this case that he says will not be disclosed. Since when does any prosecutor in America defame an individual for an alleged legal violation without presenting the proof for this to the public?

2. Violating secrecy orders himself. Schimel’s report listed the names of 35 people who had been investigated in John Doe I and II, and all but a few of these names had never been revealed to the public. Schimel thereby violated the secrecy orders for Doe I and II, wrongly casting suspicion on people never charged with a crime, and arguably leaking more information about the Doe probes than the alleged leakers he was investigating did. Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm noted that the court’s secrecy order for this material is still in force. “I am still subject to those secrecy orders, as would be the Attorney General unless specifically authorized,” Chisholm said in an email to the State Journal.

1. Conducting a completely unnecessary investigation with no discernible limits. The public certainly didn’t care that material leaked to the Guardian revealed how the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker colluded with supposedly independent groups. The Wisconsin Supreme Court, which was most concerned with guarding the secrecy of the Doe information, declined to authorize an investigation of leaks. But Schimel went ahead anyway and released an angry report conducted so indiscriminately that it violated the Doe secrecy order. Following the logic of Schimel’s report, the attorney general should now be investigated.

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Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

43 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: 17 Biggest Mistakes by Brad Schimel”

  1. Adam says:

    Bravo Bruce!

    If there weren’t enough reasons to elect a new AG prior to this report, there certainly are now. Schimel clearly is as partisan a hack job as they come. And as this column concludes, incompetent to boot.

  2. Observer says:


  3. Brweer says:

    Thank you, Bruce!

  4. Terry says:

    Dump Schimel!!
    Dump Walker!!
    Dump Vukmir!!
    Dump Johnson!!

  5. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    Schimel is a shambolic shilling scumbag. Good takedown Bruce, and we can’t forget how this crook and his fellow GOP slime are trying to lie and rig elections, while hoping we forget about their money-laundering act.

  6. Dennis says:

    Is anyone surprised? The partisans in office will continue to try to discredit anyone who disagree with their right wing agenda.

  7. Thomas bamberger says:

    I was hoping you will explain this since I didn’t understand what was happening reading the newspaper.

  8. blurondo says:

    ” a scorecard of biggest goofs. ” Number 1 is the author.

  9. John Casper says:

    blurondo, no.

    “1. Conducting a completely unnecessary investigation with no discernible limits.”

  10. Matt says:

    The irony in these conservative crybabies whining about their “rights” being violated is not lost on the sentient. Vukmir is bawling about people reading her emails without noticing that it is right wing “jurisprudence” that has decimated the fourth amendment. These are her champions, but now that someone is going thru her emails (instead of some black kid’s mom’s) its time to put government on notice that she is really really sad.

  11. Little Boots says:

    @bluerondo, ah, more baseless insults and ad hominem attacks from the republicans. That’s all they know how to do. You are onto something though. These may not be the biggest mistakes Schimel himself ever made but we definitely know the biggest mistake made by Schimel’s parents!

  12. podman says:

    Let’s hope this all comes out during the election cycle,seems there are a lot of unanswered questions Schimel needs to respond to.So far he has bungled his disclaimer to the Bices involvement by saying the Journal gave up their ” real sources” which according to the Journal is not true.In other words he responded to a falsehood by making a worse false statement.As Walker has gone all in with Schimel by saying the report speaks for itself lets hope the Wisconsin media persists to get the unanswered questions reported and explained leading up to the election.Kudos to Urban Milwaukee and the Bruces Murphy and Thompson for their reporting!

  13. will says:

    Wisconsin is going through the stages of denial, bargaining, acceptance and now just complete rage that our once good government is totally run by corrupt hacks. This is a fight that Wisconsin citizens must win if we want to bring back democracy to our once clean and fare government. Walker, Vos, Fritz and the rest of these corporate puppets must be squashed from office.

  14. Lucero says:

    Much ado about nothing.

  15. Terry says:

    @Lucero, yeah the wholesale destruction of the state by Walker and republicans is no big deal.

  16. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    The actions of the Chisholm gang is the same as the KGB. Jail the whole bunch. Walker did nothing.

  17. Lucero says:

    Governor Scott Walker has been in office since 2011, and yet the state is thriving.

    So please, can the histrionics.

  18. Terry says:

    @Lucero, Walker’s Wississippi is not thriving. Poverty rates in Wississippi are at 30 year highs. People are working, for wage slave salaries with no benefits. Wissisippi has one of the fastst shrinking middle classes in the country now. Good, hard working educated people, particularly young educated people are indeed, fleeing the state. Why? Because of Walker and his policies. Remember, if it were up to him, abortion would be illegal, gay marriage would be illegal and doobie smoking would continue to be a mortal threat to society itself They aren’t buying it. So now he wants to try and lure them back by spending 7 million of taxpayer’s dollars. Not gonna happen. Wississippi is dead last in new business start ups and entrepreneurship. Wages and the economy, outside of “socialist” Dane County, which is thriving, lag our “socialist” neighbor to the west Minnesota, which is running circles around Wississippi economically and socially, attracting many of our best and brightest. And you know what? They did it all in a healthy bipartisan way, not by dividing the state and pursuing a bitter, partisan “divide and conquer” strategy that Walker employed ripping the social fabric of the state apart. Schools have been defunded. The best teachers are fleeing the state. The roads and infrastructure in Wississippi are crumbling and the state still has an unresolved one billion dollar and counting, DOT budget deficit. The republicans have, potentially unconstitutionally, gerrymandered the state elections, essentially destroying Democracy itself in the process. Voting rights and rates have in fact been seriously negatively impacted by the voter ID law. The prisons in Wississippi are overflowing and the state cannot afford its prison industrial complex any longer. Anyone, usually currently sitting in a cage for nonviolent drug “offenses” should be immediately released. The state desperately needs criminal justice and drug war reform, including ending cannabis prohibition. Is the state is “thriving” Why did Walker hand over 3 BILLION in corporate welfare to a foreign company for soon to be obsolete or automated/innovated-into-nonexistence jobs? Wississippi has been Foxconned by Walker. This John Doe investigation into Walker and aids and subsequent investigations are disconcerting all around, one might even say “greazy” to say the least. How much out of state big corporate money has Big Government moocher Walker taken? Is it true that the same money going to him is going to fund judicial seats? This is the same Waljer spealing at a far right wing conference featuring white nationalists and yes, it appears even a Nazi.
    Need I go on? And I could go on and on and on…

    Reality, Lucero, is not “histrionics.”

    Dump Walker 2018!
    Dump all republicans 2018!

  19. 2fs says:

    It’s great that we have journalists such as yourself exposing such arrogance and incompetence…but where are the Democrats?

    One reason Republicans have been able to run roughshod over this state, and the nation, is that no matter how shoddy or even illegal their actions, Democrats seem to respond for the most part with a shrug of the shoulders, or at most a temperate scolding…as if the fact that, say, David “The Strangler” Prosser has never faced any real penalty for actions that, at any other job, would have gotten him fired and probably arrested. Not to mention, at the national level, outright stealing a Supreme Court by rampantly disregarding separation of powers…etc. etc.

  20. WisSkeptic says:

    I can’t believe how much** we’re paying this illegal doofus to keep us in the dark, protect corrupt Republicans and screw the rest of us over. And we thought J.B. Van Hollen was useless!

    Bruce–thank you for sorting out the individual threads in this crazy ball of sh*t. Three more would have rounded it out to an even twenty–maybe Dishonorable Mentions (?): 20. Using $10,000 of taxpayer money to have coins made with his likeness on them. The “Shimel” is also worth nothing. 19. Overeagerness to sue the Feds for anything during President Obama’s term in office. 18. Refused to release training tapes that the taxpayers of Wisconsin–again–paid for.

    ** I don’t know how much, but I do know it’s way, way, way too much.

  21. David Blaska says:

    Let’s start with your first “error.” Because folders labeled Opposition Research “were that way when they were received by GAB” you don’t think they can be renamed?

    You’re upset Schimel supposedly refuses to disclose costs of his probe? Did I miss the disclosure of the costs of the John Doe probes?

    “Falsely claiming Doe probe had no discernible limit.” Because judges rubber stamped subpoenas is NOT proof that the investigation was limited in scope. That is circular reasoning. In fact, the original judge overseeing the Doe, Judge Kluka, approved scores of subpoenas on the same day she was conducting a jury trial.

    The e-mails of Leah Vukmir to her daughter re: her ob-gyn doctor “were probably office emails of Vukmir’s assistant Josh Hoisington.”? Unlikely, to say the least!

    Once again, you hold Eric O’Keefe as guilty as Shane Falk and the GAB conspirators for being the victim of the speech police and blowing the whistle on them.

    Schimel may indeed have “wrongly claim[ed] GAB attorneys didn’t understand election law.” But a circuit judge, James Peterson, effectively stopped the investigation once he got oversight from the inattentive Judge Kluka; the state Supreme Court ruled GAB’s legal theory had no basis; the U.S. Supreme Court essentially upheld that ruling. That the law had been understood a certain way was due to GAB’s misinterpreting the law.

    Finally, blaming Schimel for disclosing details of the State of Wisconsin’s over-reach is equivalent for blaming the Vietnam War on disclosure of the Pentagon Papers.

    As for Shirley Abrahamson, betting that deeper digging will find this woman behind the whole thing.

  22. Adam says:


    The WI GOP is literally a crime syndicate. Each branch: executive, legislature, judicial and also the DOJ not working independently as a set of checks and balances, but rather as co-conspirators, all owned by the same corporate oligarchs.
    The GAB was the only semblance of a check on absolute power left and that was clearly too much still for these guys. You will find little public sympathy for oligarchs trying to buy our government and their puppet politicians having their email accounts investigated.
    If voters like you can manage to to pull your heads out of your butts and realize politics should not be a team sport, we may yet stave off turning our country over to the corporate facists. Good day sir.

  23. David Blaska says:

    And yet, Adam, the occupiers of the State Capitol during the Act 10 intifada of 2011 were celebrated by the socialist press (John Nichols, the Nation, Ed Schultz at MSNBC, The Capital Times) for playing like a team. Teachers Union, environmentalists, Teamsters, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin — all “colluded” to begin the spate of recalls, close down a bank on the Capitol Square, boycott dissenting businesses, shout down Sarah Palin, disrupt a Special Olympics ceremony, etc. No, if you want to inveigh against crooked elections, talk to Donna Brazile at the Democratic National Committee about Hillary Clinton.

  24. gene larson says:

    Schimel is simply a tool of The State GOP.It is laughable how corrupt he is. He does’nt do the job he was elected for(rape kits) and unabashed right wing lap dog. As for the rest of the state republican part Terry’s post is spot on. The list he compiled is long but in truth he just scratched the surface. He did’nt mention foxxcon taking $125 million from the road budget to build shiny new hi ways just for them. We have dead deer laying everywhere and we now have 5 year olds gun hunting. Our enviroment is being destroyed are wetlands are being filled in. Gun laws are more lax than ever. Walker removed the 72 hour wait period for gun purchases which resulted in a woman being murdered as she left work from a grocery store in Madison by a co worker who was mad because she rebuffed his advances. This happened a few days after walker abolished the waiting period. The killer bought the gun in earlier in the day and murdered the woman later that same day. Like Terry i could go all da(corrupt supreme court,DNR gutted,etc.) As for Blaska you have always been a right wing icehole and you ever do is puke up right wing talking points

  25. gene larson says:

    blaska were you at the protests? i was they were peaceful with no arrest and the vadalism you said happened did not. also there is the issue of free speech and right to assemble.Boycotting businesses is one’s choice as common as getting up in the morning. And davey boy you and every righty out there playing the Hillary card is pathetic and though she won the election by 3 million votes she is not the president

  26. David Blaska says:

    Oh yes, I witnessed that Big Pity Party. Just wondering: does Eric O’Keefe have the same right of free speech and assembly?

  27. Adam says:

    @ Blaska,

    You apparently missed my ‘politics should not be a team sport’ post. I have no allegiance to a team. The DNC screwed Bernie, that is clear.
    And how does big money special interests buying our political system in secret equate with groups of like-minded people lawfully assembling in public spaces and initiating legal recall elections??

  28. gene larson says:

    Pity Party? You think proud state workers who get you through every day good or bad were just going to sit back and take it? There is a blue wave coming blaska to this nation and our state. It started the day when that idiot who is at the top of your party was elected president. It’s coming and our state will once again become an example of clean government. If you don’t want to drown blaska i suggest you and the lifetime government teat sucker walker get on your cycles and ride away. It’s coming and you know it

  29. Terry says:

    @David Blaska, Strap your big girl panties on and take a hike!

    DUMP WALKER 2018!

  30. gene larson says:

    @Blaska what terry said times ten!!

  31. Dennis says:

    I guess we can agree to disagree . You are obviously an extreme right wing partisan. Many of these other comments are partisan to the left. When all the branches of our government are from one extreme party, absolute power corrupts which is the case with the Walker administration.. The republicans will do anything to stay in power. Anything including taking away anyone rights from people that don’t agree with them.

  32. Joe says:

    Shimel is a dangerous incompetent arrogant partisan hack. Get out of this great state Shimel.

  33. David Blaska says:

    Dennis, you say “Republicans will do anything to stay in power. Anything including taking away anyone rights from people that don’t agree with them.”

    Did Republicans invade private homes to awaken its sleeping citizens, shine bright lights on their home, cart away their computers, thumb drives, financial records, medical histories, family photo albums. Then instruct the terrified occupants to tell no one? While the speech police made critically timed and selective leaks to favored journalists in an attempt to influence a supreme court case?

    Blaska must be pretty “extreme” to find that appalling.

  34. John says:

    It is probably more likely that Vukmir was using private email account in her capacity as a pubic official. **Has any journalist or news outfit one asked her that pointed question?**

    Also, the point of Schimel’s report is not accuracy, but instead to gin up more fervor for undermining accountability, creating a “feedback loop” out (faux) outrage (such as Blaska’s posts).

    Anyone else notice the current arguments against the GAB are the same arguments used against other investigations of corruption, like the current FBI/Mueller investigation in D.C.? You will see what I mean if you substitute WI names and context for the federal ones in this article:

    It is a tired, yet effective, strategy.

  35. richard lesiak says:

    Hey Blaska…”re-name the folders.” Wouldn’t that be evidence tampering?

  36. David Blaska says:

    Hey Lesiak, no it would NOT be evidence tampering. Murphy suggests that the folders were labeled that way when GAB got them. Who labeled them “Opposition Research”? And why would GAB be prevented from labeling them something more unbiased. The folders themselves were not evidence; the contents were.

  37. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    Never forget that WHAAAA-ska’s job is to lie and distract from the criminality and fascist nature of his GOP.

    Don’t feed the troll.

  38. Dennis says:

    Blaska. This is pointless. The homes are no longer private if they belong to corrupt government officials. were they over the top, maybe a bit, not sure. I am not an attorney. But as you are such a partisan, it makes not difference to you. You are always on whatever side is right wing regardless right or wrong because it’s what you want to believe, kind of like fox news.

  39. David Blaska says:

    Dennis says: “The homes are no longer private if they belong to corrupt government officials.”

    That is the point, Dennis. The homes did not belong to government officials. With one exception (Cindy Archer) they were the homes of PRIVATE citizens. Perhaps, because you are such a partisan, that makes no difference to you. But at least, get the facts straight.

  40. the criticalonme says:

    If he could only be more like Chisolm. Professional, ethical, honest. Crime spiraling downward in MKE, unicons dancing. everything is fine in Trolley land and the rest of WI is jealous! why don’t we see MKE’s ‘contributions’ to the rest of the state?

  41. Crazy Chester says:

    Merry Christmas Dave Blaska! Hope Santa brings you all the Reynolds Wrap you’ve been wanting for headwear!

  42. Thomas says:

    Unchecked, Schimel’s partisan hackery could make it difficult to restore clean government to WI for generations.

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