Vicki McKenna among those GAB spied on
Thank the Good Lord for Brad Schimel, the first conservative state attorney general in long memory. Thank you the heavens above for the too few brave souls — Eric O’Keefe, the Wall Street Journal, Vicki McKenna (her interview with Schimel), and Matt Kittle (his report) among them — for speaking out against the government gag orders.
The public release of the Wisconsin A.G.’s report confirms that the Legislature did the right thing in blowing up the Government Accountability Board (GAB) and scattering its tainted staffers to the winds. Now it is time to prosecute the secret government speech police named in the report. Now it is time for the state’s news media to — at long last — stand up for The First Amendment.
This is Attorney General Brad Schimel’s money quote:
The Department of Justice is deeply concerned by what appears to have been the weaponization of GAB by partisans in furtherance of political goals, which permitted the vast collection of highly personal information from dozens of Wisconsin Republicans without even taking modest steps to secure this information.
The Department of Justice investigation found:
- GAB and the Milwaukee County D.A. turned a John Doe investigation originally requested by Walker into mislaid funds at the Milwaukee County executive’s office “into an investigation targeting Walker.” That morphed into John Doe 2 and a third, previously unreported John Doe investigation.
- GAB under Kevin Kennedy, a disciple of the IRS’ Lois Lerner, acted like the old Russian Cheka, hounding citizens disloyal to the liberal hegemony.
- GAB and its allies in the Milwaukee and Dane County district attorneys’ offices conducted pre-dawn police raids of private homes, battering rams at the ready.
- Children were held incommunicado while government agents tossed the home and carried away mobile phones, computers, and thumb drives.
- Gag orders issued to the victims of those searches — they were ordered not to contact their attorneys — while the speech police selectively leaked coerced information that would make them look good to favored journalists. (UPDATE: Journal Sentinel reporter Dan Bice insists he received no leaks from John Doe investigators, although the investigation’s cache of materials includes 31 e-mails “discussing a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reporter.”)
Government seized ‘breathtaking’ amount of information
- They accumulated “millions of pages of documents” involving thousands of individuals, half a million e-mails and chat logs, and over 200 search warrants and subpoenas.
- They compiled an enemies list of 35 conservative activists including State Rep. Leah Vukmir and pre-dawn raid victims R.J. Johnson and Deb Jordahl.
- Radio journalists Mark Belling, Vicki McKenna, and Charlie Sykes were targeted, as well.
- They continued mining the “breathtaking” amount of seized data even after Circuit Court Judge James Peterson ordered a stop. That order, and subsequent rulings by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court underscores the illegality of the entire John Doe effort.
- The speech police are still withholding evidence. A government hard drive full of illegally obtained data has gone missing, Schimel reports.
- Coercively obtained data was filed in computer folders titled “Opposition Research” and “Senate Opposition Research” as if a taxpayer-supported government agency was nothing more than the Democrat(ic) party’s go-negative campaign shop.
- The search and destroy went well beyond politics to hundreds of personal e-mails between mother and daughter about health issues, to personal income tax returns, a bank mortgage application, even fantasy sports leagues. (Is nothing sacred?!)
- Selectively chosen documents of the supposedly secret files were leaked to a liberal news outlet (The Guardian) in an attempt to influence the U.S. Supreme Court. Schimel reported:
Only someone with an intimate knowledge of the case and familiarity with the leaked documents would know which documents to leak that would correspond directly to the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s opinion in Two Unnamed Petitioners.
- Finally, many emails from what the DOJ report calls the “Falk boxes” “clearly indicate that Republican staffers, campaign workers, and fundraisers were diligent in separating their state work from their campaign work.”
Conspiring to commit free speech
What was the crime being investigated by the Government Accountability Board and its agents in the Milwaukee and Dane County district attorneys offices?
The crime was this: one group of citizens “colluding” with another group of citizens on matters of their governance before an election. Just as the Act 10 opposition had done before the Walker/State Senate Recalls.
The John Doe was not an investigation, it was a persecution. The government — acting in secrecy with full police powers — intimidated, prosecuted, and selectively targeted political speech with which they disagreed.
If ever there was doubt about the partisan nature, consider the quote of GAB lead counsel Shane Falk, who should be disbarred:
“Remember … our state is being run by corporations and billionaires. This isn’t democracy.”
Then again, neither are speech police raids and battering rams.
Had the victims of this oppressed speech been Black Lives Matter or the Socialist Workers Party, the Wisconsin State Journal and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel would have been in full howl. The ACLU would file lawsuits. Garrulous old Neil Heinen would steam like a teapot. The Madison Common Council would issue a pronunciamento. John Nichols would blow into his bullhorn in front of the Monument to Communism in James Madison Park. Ambulances would be halted on John Nolen Drive. Tammy Baldwin would write a campaign fund-raising letter.
But it was just a bunch of conservatives — white, at that. Anyone who complained was guilty of “whining,” according to former State Journal columnist Chris Rickert.
Platinum Bonus material seized by the government speech police:
- GAB held and reviewed emails concerning a “labor day booze cruise,” a “landlord’s furniture” issue,” a “lawn care issue,” an invitation to “let’s get together for a drink,” a “ladies golf league at Muskego Lake,” and a “Ladies Night!”
- Pictures of a woman who was purchasing a new dress, asking the email recipient how the dress looked on her.
- An application for an Anchor Bank mortgage, including references to tax forms and information.
- An email between parents discussing a daughter’s need for an OB-GYN.
- A series of Google Chat logs between friends covering a variety of private topics, including whether the writer needs “to lose 20 lbs asap.”
- Several emails between family members circulating drafts and corrections to a Christmas letter.