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The Dastardly Crime Republicans Want Investigated

Sep. 20, 2016
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For years, Republicans did everything they could to thwart a long-running John Doe investigation into suspected criminal activity by Gov. Scott Walker and the party’s legislative leaders. They finally got corrupt allies on the Wisconsin Supreme Court to shut down the investigation and order that evidence be destroyed.

Well, guess what? Republicans now want a brand-new investigation related to the John Doe. Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is even calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor.

Lest anyone think Republicans have been struck by a sudden epiphany of honesty, they definitely do not want to reopen the investigation into whether Walker and Republicans violated election laws by laundering millions of dollars in campaign contributions through outside groups to cover up the bribery of Republican politicians.

Republicans want to investigate how The Guardian U.S. obtained leaked documents from the secret John Doe. The publication of those documents showed Walker’s direct involvement in money laundering to hide the identity of millionaire donors who benefited from Republican legislation.

Get that? It’s not the financial corruption of the state’s top politicians Republicans want investigated. It’s The Guardian’s exposing of Wisconsin’s political corruption to the nation by publishing factual evidence.

Walker himself says he’ll leave any legal action “up to the legal authorities. But it’s clear that somebody violated the law.” Didn’t Walker’s mom ever tell him that every time you point a finger at somebody else, there are three more fingers pointing back at you?

Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel says he’s “currently reviewing available options to address serious legal questions raised by the leak and publication of these sealed documents.”

 

Corruption in All Branches of State Government

It’s true that information gathered in a John Doe is supposed to be kept secret until formal charges are filed. But in Wisconsin, the suspected political corruption prosecutors were investigating also spread to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which shut down the John Doe to prevent any charges from being filed.

The financial corruption of the governor’s office, the Legislature and the Supreme Court are clearly outlined in the documents The Guardian published.

Harold Simmons was the Texas billionaire owner of a company that produced toxic lead used in paint. He was being sued for millions of dollars over brain damage to children in poor neighborhoods caused by lead paint. Simmons secretly donated $750,000 to Walker and legislative Republicans and was rewarded with Republican legislation to shield Simmons’ company from legal liability.

Gogebic Taconite, the mining company that once planned an enormous, environmentally destructive, open-pit mine for northern Wisconsin, made a similar secret donation of $1.2 million to Walker and Republicans facing recall. The governor and Republican legislators then allowed Gogebic to rewrite state mining laws to weaken mining regulations and eliminate environmental protections.

Walker’s central role, described explicitly in a fundraiser’s email, was to encourage large donors to hide their contributions by laundering them through Wisconsin Club for Growth. That’s because the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which claimed to be independent of Walker or any candidate, didn’t have to abide by campaign finance law limits or identify its donors.

But, of course, Wisconsin Club for Growth wasn’t independent. It coordinated directly with Walker’s campaign to spend millions of dollars from donors whose identities were kept secret so the public wouldn’t be able to see all the state legislation those millionaires bought with their political contributions.

The third party to the corruption was the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The four-member Republican majority on the court shut down the John Doe investigation in July 2015, falsely claiming there was nothing illegal about independent groups coordinating directly with candidates in Wisconsin.

That was clearly untrue. Such coordination has been illegal everywhere in the U.S. for the past 40 years, ever since the landmark 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision that allowed independent groups to spend unlimited funds on elections as a free speech right.

The court expressly forbid independent groups from coordinating directly with candidates to prevent exactly what has happened in Wisconsin. It said groups had to remain independent from candidates to alleviate “the danger that expenditures will be given as a quid pro quo for improper commitments from the candidate.” Otherwise known as the bribery of politicians.

The real reason the state court shut down the John Doe was itself brazenly corrupt. The so-called independent groups at the heart of the case—Wisconsin Club for Growth and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce—had spent between $8 and $10 million to elect all four of the majority justices. Although two justices—Michael Gableman and David Prosser—were challenged to recuse themselves because of the clear conflict of interest, they refused.

Prosecutors have appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Republican refusal to fill a vacancy on the court could prevent it from addressing Wisconsin’s widespread political corruption. But exposing the breathtaking magnitude of that corruption to the nation by publishing leaked documents is not a serious crime. It’s a public service.

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