After victory in court, conservative activists talk on the record for the first time about their 21-month ordeal.
The John Doe investigation of Wisconsin conservatives collapsed last week with a powerful decision from the Wisconsin Supreme Court that called state prosecutors’ theory of campaign-finance law “unconstitutional” and “unsupported in either reason or law.” But the legal exoneration shouldn’t pass without noting the hardship the secret probe imposed on its targets and on political debate in Wisconsin.
For the past few days, I’ve been talking to the targets of the task force of Milwaukee Democratic prosecutors, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board and Special Prosecutor Francis Schmitz. Their experiences, on the record here for the first time, reveal the nasty political sweep of an investigation that invaded privacy with surveillance of email accounts, raided homes with armed law enforcement, and swarmed individuals with subpoenas demanding tens of thousands of documents while insisting on secrecy.
One target did speak up in public in real time— Eric O’Keefe, who went on the record in limited ways with me not long after he was subpoenaed in October 2013 as part of the prosecutors’ investigation of conservative speech during the Wisconsin recall elections. The director of the Wisconsin Club for Growth knew that violating the gag order put him at personal risk, but he told me then that he had to fight because it was an assault on basic constitutional freedoms and “we have done nothing illegal.” A Journal editorial exposed the extent and dubious legal basis of the Doe investigation for the first time. [Read more...]