PRESS RELEASE: Heartland Institute Experts React to Wisconsin Attorney General’s Decision to Appoint a “Special Master” Relating to John Doe Investigation

Published October 31, 2016

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel announced on Thursday, October 27 that he is requesting the Wisconsin Supreme Court to appoint a “special master” to investigate the leak of documents from a “John Doe” investigation. Schimel’s request also asks for the special master to oversee the return of property seized during the investigation.

The U.K. Guardian published an article on September 14 containing more than 1,100 leaked documents from the investigation. The leak did not change the opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States, which on October 3 refused to hear the investigation.

The investigation was launched in 2012, when the Wisconsin Supreme Court granted a request from Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm to investigate allegations of illegal coordination between the campaign of Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) and numerous issue advocacy organizations. The Wisconsin Supreme Court ended the investigation in July 2015 in a 4–2 decision. Chisholm asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case shortly after the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued its ruling, but the Court refused. Chisholm has formally exhausted all his legal options.

The following statements from policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Jim Lakely, director of communications at The Heartland Institute, at [email protected] or 312/377-4000.

“I applaud Attorney General Brad Schimel for taking the first step to investigate allegations of misconduct by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office during the John Doe investigation. The citizens of Wisconsin deserve to know if District Attorney John Chisholm and the other prosecutors engaged in actions that violated the free speech rights of political activists. The victims of the ‘John Doe’ should be able to reclaim their seized property without further delay once a ‘special master’ is appointed. The Wisconsin Department of Justice and the Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation must take swift action against any prosecutor who is found guilty of misconduct.”

Kyle Maichle
Project Manager, Constitutional Reform
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

“Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel’s request for an investigation to confirm the divestiture of illegally seized prosecutorial evidence from the ‘John Doe’ political witch-hunts is a necessary and proper way to ensure the state government’s persecution of political speech has truly been concluded. The prosecution team should have divested itself of evidence illegally harvested from innocent citizens on its own, but the government has proven itself unworthy of people’s trust.

“Schimel’s request for a court-appointed investigator into how government documents, collected and sealed to protect the accuseds’ privacy, ended up in the hands of agenda-driven foreign newspapers, such as The Guardian. Although whistleblowers within the government serve a necessary purpose, working with a free press to inform the public about misdeeds, the ‘John Doe’ leaks served the government’s goal of persecuting Wisconsin residents for engaging in legally protected speech. Schimel is right to pursue the leakers within the Wisconsin bureaucracy, as such violations of social norms harm the public, instead of helping people.”

Jesse Hathaway
Managing Editor, Budget & Tax News
Research Fellow, The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

The Heartland Institute is a 32-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our website or call 312/377-4000.