Jul 27, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 43 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
On July 16, we saw the definitive end to one of the greatest abuses of power in recent memory. After five years, the Wisconsin supreme court finally halted the Milwaukee district attorney’s notorious “John Doe” investigation that targeted Governor Scott Walker and political allies trying to reform the state’s laws regarding fiscally ruinous public employee unions. Imagine a grand jury investigation but without the jury, leaving a prosecutor who operates secretly—in this case, the district attorney’s investigation was headed by one John Chisholm—with almost sole discretion to pursue whatever evidence he deems relevant to his investigation. (There was nominal supervision from a judge who seems to have exercised no oversight.)
In Wisconsin, Chisholm ordered early morning raids where the cops showed up at political activists’ homes carrying battering rams and subpoenas. The very thin justification for such heavy-handed tactics was, improbably, being accused of violating campaign finance rules that disallow coordination between independent groups and candidates.
Normally, when people work to change a law they disagree with it’s called the democratic process. But in this case, “Chisholm’s wife was a teachers’ union shop steward who was distraught over Act 10’s union reforms,” reported National Review’s David French. “[A former prosecutor] said Chisholm ‘felt it was his personal duty’ to stop them”—legal authority be damned.
According to the Wisconsin supreme court’s ruling halting the investigation—it had previously been put on hold by state and federal courts—“as part of this dragnet, the special prosecutor also had seized wholly irrelevant information, such as retirement income statements, personal financial account information, personal letters, and family photos.” Further, “this conclusion ends the John Doe investigation because the special prosecutor’s legal theory is unsupported in either reason or law.” That bit about the investigation not being founded in “reason” is a remarkable statement coming from a panel of judges. It’s legalese for shouting “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” at the prosecutor.
The court, to its credit, also realizes that there are much bigger issues at stake, given that all this was done in the name of enforcing campaign finance laws. Liberals appalled at the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision have long insisted that there’s no conflict between empowering the government to heavily regulate “political speech” and ensuring that free speech is broadly protected. Wisconsin’s John Doe investigation exposes this for the lie that it is, and the state supreme court is alert to the danger:
The special prosecutor has disregarded the vital principle that in our nation and our state political speech is a fundamental right and is afforded the highest level of protection. The special prosecutor’s theories . . . instead would assure that such political speech will be investigated with paramilitary-style home invasions conducted in the pre-dawn hours and then prosecuted and punished. . . . It is fortunate, indeed, for every other citizen of this great State who is interested in the protection of fundamental liberties that the special prosecutor chose as his targets innocent citizens who had both the will and the means to fight the unlimited resources of an unjust prosecution.
The national media were perversely unmoved by the horrors accompanying the John Doe investigation, no doubt because it cast discredit on the motives of unions, campaign finance activists, and other favored groups and distracted from the evil personified by Governor Scott Walker. And so they have largely ignored the appalling abuses.
But the rest of us should not forget the name John Chisholm or the willingness of liberal “good government” crusaders to abandon any respect for basic rights the moment they have an opportunity to go after their enemies.
Gleanings and observations.10:20 AM, Jun 15, 2015 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Another Sunday, another New York Times magazine, this one featuring a cover story about “Scott Walker and the dismantling of American unions.” Readers of the Old Grey Lady, a newspaper not without its virtues, are undoubtedly aware of its sympathy for down-trodden workers, especially if they belong to trade unions.
Leader of the pack?9:10 AM, Mar 6, 2015 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Scott Walker has had a pretty good run as of late. He’s made some new friends and wrong-footed the right enemies and became, in fairly short order, a leader among the pack of Republican politicians running for president. Perhaps even the leader.
Why Indian gaming is proliferating.Nov 10, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 09 • By JIM SWIFT
Two years after it was supposed to help revitalize Atlantic City, the $2.4 billion Revel casino—all 57 stories of it—is closed. It’s an expensive eyesore that sums up Atlantic City’s decline.
Vegas is still a big draw, but it’s an anomaly these days. Destination gambling, as it was once known, is dying: 80 percent of states now have some form of legalized gaming.
Oct 13, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 05 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Politico recently hired Timothy Noah to be the publication’s labor and employment editor. Noah is a former Slate and New Republic columnist known for being liberal. Of course, most reporters on the labor beat are pro-union, so you’re probably wondering what the news is here. Well, that would be Noah’s hiring, in turn, of Mike Elk, formerly of Huffington Post and In These Times, to help him cover the beat.
After the high drama of a recall, Scott Walker runs a low-key reelection campaign.Sep 8, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 48 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
12:05 PM, Aug 15, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
The National Treasury Employees Union is an independent union representing, according to its own figures, "some 150,000" federal workers from many different agencies. The union claims to fight for the "dignity and respect" of its members, and it maintains a "legislative action center" to keep tabs on what Congress is up to.
1:32 PM, Jul 14, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
One of the Democratic party’s most loyal and powerful interest groups is, evidently, falling out of love with the Obama administration. As Peter Sullivan of The Hill reports:
4:09 PM, Jun 3, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The problems at the VA cannot be laid at the feet of the unions that represent its workers. A leader of one of those unions says so. This astonishing news is reported by Charles S.
Jun 9, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 37 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
The Department of Veterans Affairs has admitted that 23 deaths are linked to “secret waiting lists” for health care and other malfeasance and mismanagement at the agency, though the actual total is probably significantly higher. So far, dozens of veterans have lost their lives. Not a single VA official responsible for this tragedy has lost his job. In a more functional political culture, the VA scandal would be a clarion call for civil service reform.
Jun 2, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 36 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to protect Americans from predatory practices by financial institutions. That sounds like a noble goal, but asking a federal agency to police irresponsibility has almost always been a bad idea in practice. The CFPB has yet to defy our low expectations.
8:00 AM, May 3, 2014 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
The Washington Examiner is up with a five part special report on "the rise and current decline of organized labor in America: How unions lost touch with the workplace and their own members." It's authored by Sean Higgins, one of the best reporters on the labor beat. Union politics can be complicated, and the introductory piece on "Big Labor's identity crisis" is an excellent place to start: