Sunday, December 17, 2017

Dishonest hack AG Schimel and WisGOP are a model of Trumpian thuggery

Something always smelled wrong about Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel's report on the 2016 leak of information of the state's General Accountability Board's investigation into the campaign operation of Scott Walker and other Wisconsin GOP politicans. Better known as the John Doe cases, this information found its way to The Guardian (click here to get a refresher on the story), and it detailed a money-laundering and influence-peddling operation that funneled millions from rich people and corporations into ads and campaigns supporting Walker and other GOP candidates.

Schimel responded by releasing a report that had plenty of conjecture and rehashing of the John Doe investigation, but no recommendation for charges. And as we found out from Matthew DeFour in today's Wisconsin State Journal, there were a lot of things about the John Doe cases that Schimel left out, while possibly breaking the law with some of the things he DID reveal.
In this case, the newspaper has learned, the GAB — a panel of six retired judges appointed by the governor — closed the 16-month investigation in March 2013 without recommending criminal charges or penalties. State law requires such inquiries to remain secret unless they result in penalties or criminal charges.

It was not publicized until Schimel this month issued his report on the leaks stemming from the so-called John Doe II investigation into Walker’s recall campaign. Schimel’s report for the first time unmasked the identities of subjects of the previously undisclosed ethics probe, including state Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, who is now running for U.S. Senate...

Former GAB ethics administrator Jonathan Becker said he was not aware of there ever being a “John Doe III,” a term Schimel coined to describe GAB investigation No. 2012-01, the one looking at whether state employees were campaigning on taxpayer time....

Becker said the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office provided evidence it had collected during the John Doe I investigation to the GAB, which did not seek warrants for records itself. It is not unusual for the state’s ethics agency to conduct secret investigations when presented with evidence in a complaint or a referral from law enforcement.

“There was an investigation that I can’t talk about,” Becker said. “I have maintained confidentiality my whole professional career on this stuff, unlike the Attorney General who may have violated (the confidentiality laws related to ethics investigations) by talking about this stuff in his report.”

Both are dumb, but at least Homer is well-meaning

The State Journal story talks to several current and former GAB staff, and all of the comments point to the investigation not only being legitimate, but it also indicates that our AG and his Department of "Justice" was selective in what was revealed in that report.

Urban Milwaukee's Bruce Thompson also took a look at Schimel's report, and found it slanted and lacking in detail. Thompson points to an unneeded and incorrect statement about the employment of Journal-Sentinel reporter Daniel Bice's wife (a clear attempt to play the "media is biased" card that backfired), and a claim from Schimel that then-Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson inspected the John Doe files, but never actually asking Justice Abrahamson why she did that.

Thompson also asks why Schimel is so adamant that his Department of "Justice" knows more than lawyers who specialize in the laws that the John Doe case dealt with.
Then there is this quite strange paragraph:

Because the attorneys for GAB (none of whom were experienced criminal prosecutors) prejudged the evidence and what it meant, they had difficulty accepting that their interpretation of the law was wrong.

This paragraph seems to assume that “experienced criminal prosecutors” can better interpret campaign law than attorneys who have spent their careers interpreting campaign law. While Schimel does not spell out the GAB attorneys’ supposedly wrong interpretation, it’s likely the interpretation that the US Supreme Court has expressed since its Buckley decision in 1976. If so, it is understandable that the attorneys would have difficulty accepting the novel theory adopted by four of the Wisconsin Supreme Court justices, which ignored decades of precedent.
Well stated, Bruce. The only reason Schimel had a problem with what the GAB did is because HE DIDN'T WANT THEM TO FOLLOW THE LAW THAT EXISTED. Instead, he wanted them to act like WisGOP hacks who are perfectly fine with laundering campaign funds and hiding from the public the names of donors and sources of the money in the name of "free speech."

Thompson ends his column by asking a few questions.
The report recommends that seven people face contempt proceedings, referring to a letter that has not yet been made public. It is hard to see how such proceedings would satisfy basic standards of fairness unless the defendants are able to access the information in the files. Yet in a report at Wispolitics, DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos says that DOJ “would oppose that request” for access to the files.

Brad Schimel has developed into the most partisan Attorney General of either party in recent memory, remaking the DOJ into an instrument of the Republican Party. Is this what he wishes to be known for? (Jake thinks it's because Schimel's such a crook that he doesn't care).
In fact, Thompson notes that the non-public nature of John Doe investigations actually played into the hands of the GOP money-launderers and their fellow GOP-puppets on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The use of secrecy in the John Doe investigations desperately needs to be rethought. At this point the John Doe secrecy chiefly serves those, like the Supreme Court majority and the DOJ who want to control information in order to spin only their version of events.

In the case of witnesses, the secrecy orders are probably “screamingly unconstitutional,” in the words of one federal judge, and therefore unenforceable. This has the ironic effect of ceding control to those with a political agenda, who are most willing to defy the (probably unenforceable) secrecy order. Compare the widely-circulated but untrue accounts of the Doe investigation with news reports of Robert Mueller’s current investigation of Russian election interference, in which witnesses know they are free to talk to the press.
And that is why the attempts by Fox News and other right-wing GOPper-ganda to derail the Mueller investigation into Donald Trump and the rest of the GOP in THEIR money-laundering and influence-peddling case sounds so familiar to me. It's the same playbook that the Wisconsin GOP pulled in John Doe! Lie, demonize, and blur the lines on the facts of the case, and use your media outlets to amplify that message, no matter how BS or slanted it is.

The difference is that the national media isn't a bunch of bought-off pushovers like the Wisconsin media was in the early to mid-2010s. In DC and in the rest of the national media, there is actually a reward to doing investigative reporting and dot-connecting to expose the money train and influence-buying, and they have enough of an ability to blow off the BS thrown out by right-wing hacks. Fox News is largely discredited outside of the RW Bubble these days, as proven by Trump's approval ratings being in the mid-30s and dropping.

In Wisconsin, there was never enough of a pushback to the lies about John Doe that were spewed on a daily basis by the likes of Icki McKenna, Mark Belling, Charlie Sykes, or Jerry Bader. Whether that was because our state's media was incompetent or under orders by their corporate paymasters, I'll leave that up to you. But Brad Schimel, Leah Vukmir, and Scott Walker clearly think that appealing to the "victim complex" that is central to the mentality of right-wing trash in Wisconsin is still a way to win in 2018.

Let's show them that they're wrong. Fire Schimel, humiliate Vukmir, and blast the rest of the GOP out of this state and out of Congress in 2018 (especially if they do not stand up to the obstruction of justice that Trump and company are trying in DC). Doing so will be a start in restoring the fairness of the law that has gone by the wayside in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan.


  1. You can bet Walker wanted this to go away. Shimel was pushed to open this up by Vos, Fitzgerald and Erick O’Keefe - it has opened a bag of sores and worms that Walker did not want opened.

    1. Totally agree. Which is why Walker kept robotically saying "The report speaks for itself" when asked about it last week, and gave a similar "no comment" when asked if he agreed with Fitz and Vos that current Ethics Committee people should lose their jobs.

      How UNINTIMIDATED. Combine that with Scotty's SuperPAC taking $1 mil from a Putin-connected oligarch, and Walker does not want to deal with campaign finance issues these days.

  2. If the truth is used to judge matters, then Walker is completely intimidated. It's just that Walker can rely on our current judicial climate and media to quash any questions into the GOP way of doing things.

    They know they're the ones with the money (I'm sure Walker doesn't, but has to appease his sugardaddies), so they are so bold to brazenly do the things they do; they feel that noone will oppose them.

    Right and wrong are merely just considerations for people like voters, who choose to vote based on whether they think their vote will make a difference in this whole moderate/centrist cloud of thinking.

  3. It's worth remembering Schimel's past when judging his current actions and motives. He's the guy who employed "prosecutor discretion" to drop all the felony charges against Scott Jensen.

    Changing laws to make life easier for Republicans after the fact is a bit of a pattern here in Wisconsin. A lot of the players from the caucus scandal era are still on the field.