Is Wisconsin Club for Growth Suing the Wrong District Attorneys?

Jun. 20, 2014
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At the end of yesterday’s John Doe document dump is a strong rebuke by the Milwaukee prosecutors, led by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, in the federal case brought by Eric O’Keefe and the Wisconsin Club for Growth. [You’ll find it in Exhibit 10 of the big packet.] 

O’Keefe and the Club are suing Chisholm, Special Prosecutor Francis Schmitz, and other investigators who are part of the five-county bipartisan John Doe investigation into coordination between Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and independent conservative groups, including Wisconsin Club for Growth.

Among other things, Schmitz’s filing takes a giant swipe at O’Keefe’s argument, saying that O’Keefe and the Club are suing the wrong people.

Why? Schmitz wrote:

“The statute specific to campaign law enforcement that provides that such actions cannot be prosecuted outside the potential defendant’s county of residence. The statute refutes, indisputably and as a matter of law, plaintiffs’ contention that they are the victims of any prosecution, selective or otherwise, by Milwaukee County authorities. Only the district attorneys of Dane County and Iowa County have legal capacity to prosecute the plaintiffs.”

Let’s unpack this statement.

When the Government Accountability Board (GAB) was created to replace the old State Elections Board, one of the items in the legislation created a provision that requires campaign finance violations to be prosecuted in the accused’s home county.

The thinking by Republicans was that Dane County was too stringent and that elected officials would have an easier time in their county of residence.

That’s precisely how it worked out for Scott Jensen, who got his trial moved to Waukesha County, where he got a pass from DA Brian Schimel, who’s now running as a Republican for attorney general.

So, where does Eric O’Keefe live?

Iowa County.

Which county is home to the Sun Prairie-based Wisconsin Club for Growth?

Dane County.

So why are they suing Milwaukee prosecutors? Why aren't Iowa County DA Larry Nelson and Dane County DA Ismael Ozanne being sued?

In addition, Schmitz contends that the Milwaukee prosecutors being sued didn’t launch the John Doe in the first place:

Plaintiffs utterly fail to face reality, which is that the only John Doe proceeding legally relevant to them was commenced by petition of a district attorney of another county (who is not party to this action), as well as the state judge who ordered the commencement. It was not commenced or ordered to be commenced by the Milwaukee prosecutors. Again, they have no statutory power to do that, they did not do that, and, perhaps most importantly in the injunction context here, they do not have the statutory authority to either vacate the judge’s order commencing the action or order the district attorney of another county to do anything.

So even if O’Keefe and Wisconsin Club for Growth ultimately win in federal court, what, exactly, would they win? Chisholm and co. don’t have the power to shut down an investigation in another county, much less trash a judge’s order. This is yet more evidence indicating that O'Keefe's lawsuit is a political stunt meant to trash Chisholm and the Milwaukee-based prosecutors and investigators.




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