Politics & Government
1:00 am
Tue February 11, 2014

Group Sues to Stop Second, Secret John Doe Probe

A conservative group in Wisconsin wants to halt what’s known as "John Doe 2."


Prosecutors are reportedly eyeing whether independent interests coordinated illegally with Republican candidates during the recalls in 2011 and 2012.

On Monday, the Wisconsin Club for Growth and its director filed a federal lawsuit, claiming the investigation violates their free speech.

It’s the second John Doe probe with connections to Gov. Walker. The first resulted in six convictions, including of former aides.

Mordecai Lee, a professor of governmental affairs at UWM, has been watching the cases unfold.  He says there are interesting differences between the two John Doe probes.

“In the first one, the tactic by Gov. Walker was very passive, very quiet, very cooperative, never ever to criticize the partisanship of John Chisholm, who is the Democratic D.A. of Milwaukee County. And eventually after an agonizingly long period, Gov. Walker was not implicated and it sort of came to an end,” Lee says. “Here we’re got the opposite legal tactic. We’ve got a tactic where way at the front end of the John Doe, the potential defendants are being incredibly aggressive in trying to stop it or deflect it, or narrow it, or deter it, whatever it might be....I think it’s fair to come up with the supposition that this really aggressive legal tactic, might have something to do with what they don’t want to happen.”

Lee says the stakes are high for both sides.

“The principle at hand is, can a prosecutor investigate if there was coordination, or is just the very fact of investigating that's trampling on the civil rights and free speech rights of the potential defendants?” Lee says.

Casual voters in Wisconsin may not be paying much attention to the John Doe, but nationally, people are watching, according to Lee.

“The national media are following this very closely. They’re already speculating about how this might affect Gov. Walker’s ability to run for president. After all, the coverage of “Bridgegate” for Gov. Christie (of New Jersey) for so long had looked like it wasn’t going to touch him and people were following it, both people on the left and the right and the news media, and then it turns out to be a very interesting story. So without in any way suggesting anything about Gov. Walker, I think we’re already seeing this kind of coverage. And when the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page is commenting on this obscure secretive John Doe, then you know something is up.”

Regarding the first John Doe investigation, a judge could soon unseal thousands of records related to the conviction of Kelly Rindfleisch. She was Gov. Walker’s deputy chief of staff when he was Milwaukee County executive. She has decided not to contest the release of material from that investigation.