- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Lawyers for a special interest group on Tuesday asked a federal appeals court to uphold an injunction that blocks a Wisconsin prosecutor from reviving an investigation that targeted conservative organizations accused of illegally coordinating with Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011-2012 campaign.

The investigation, launched by Milwaukee Country District Attorney John T. Chisholm was enjoined by U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Randa in May after he ruled in favor of the Wisconsin Club for Growth.

The group accused the government of selective prosecution and violating their rights to free speech and equal protection under the law.

On Tuesday, Mr. Chisholm’s attorneys tried to convince three judges at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago that the federal injunction that halted their investigation should be lifted, but the lawyers who argued against them say their probe is driven by politics, not probable cause and that the investigation sets a precedent that endangers the First Amendment.

“This District Attorney has abused the legal process and launched a series of investigations that seized records from political opponents, and then used those records to loosely construct a theory that conservative political groups were illegally coordinating with Gov. Scott Walker for the purpose of circumventing campaign finance limits,” said Andrew Grossman, a Washington-based Baker Hostetler lawyer for the Wisconsin Club for Growth.

“What was allegedly happening here is that people were coordinating with Gov. Walker on political based issues, which is permissible,” he explained.

“None of those issue-ads had anything to do with Gov. Walker as a candidate whatsoever. In fact, the ads actually involved State Senate candidates. This is clearly political retaliation because there’s no other explanation for it. All these groups being targeted have nothing to do with one another except that they are conservative and they have something in common; they support Scott Walker’s policies.”

If the 7th Circuit upholds the already existing federal injunction, then Mr. Chisholm’s office will continue to be enjoined from continuing its investigation, but it could ask for a rehearing that petitions the appellate court for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court. If the appellate court vacates the injunction and allows the investigation to proceed, then lawyers for the Wisconsin Club for Growth could seek an alternative remedy from a lower federal court.

Shortly before the 7th Circuit hearing began, an online legal journal reported that a former prosecutor from Mr. Chisholm’s office spoke to a reporter there on the condition of anonymity and made the allegation that Mr. Chisholm’s investigation was personal. The prosecutor said Mr. Chisholm was motivated by his wife — a public schoolteacher’s union shop steward — who sharply disliked Mr. Walker and was “moved to tears” because of the impact that the governor’s 2011 Budget Repair bill had on public employee unions.

Cornell law Professor William Jacobson opined on his blog, “Legal Insurrection,” the following:

The revelation by a former Wisconsin prosecutor that the John Doe proceedings against Governor Scott Walker may have been motivated by pro-union political considerations is chilling. To date, no one has been able to explain why District Attorney John Chisholm has gone to the lengths he has gone to try to find criminal conduct that could taint Governor Walker. If this new information is accurate, now we know the motivation, and there needs to be an investigation of the investigators.

Mr. Grossman said that his legal team will investigate the comments and that he expects a decision from the 7th Circuit by the end of the month.

Attempts to reach the Wisconsin County District Attorney’s Office for comment went unreturned.

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is an investigative reporter for the Washington Times.


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