No, this isn’t an excerpt from a movie: it happened. Less than a year ago. In our country:
“…Early in the morning of October 3, 2013, armed officers raided the homes of R.J. Johnson, …Deborah Jordahl, and several other targets across the state. Sheriff deputy vehicles used bright floodlights to illuminate the targets‘ homes. Deputies executed the search warrants, seizing business papers, computer equipment, phones, and other devices, while their targets were restrained under police supervision and denied the ability to contact their attorneys…”
This was the way that Wisconsin’s “John Doe” investigation actually started, and the quoted passage above is from U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa’s ruling on the legality of the investigation itself. The five-county probe has been looking for possible illegal coordination between Governor Scott Walker’s election campaign, the Wisconsin Club for Growth and numerous other groups and individuals during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections.
“…On the same day, the Club‘s accountants and directors, including O‘Keefe, received subpoenas demanding that they turn over more or less all of the Club‘s records from March 1, 2009 to the present. The subpoenas indicated that their recipients were subject to a Secrecy Order, and that their contents and existence could not be disclosed other than to counsel, under penalty of perjury.
The subpoenas‘ list of advocacy groups indicates that all or nearly all right-of-center groups and individuals in Wisconsin who engaged in issue advocacy from 2010 to the present are targets of the investigation…”
And according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, these subpoenas weren’t restricted just to Wisconsin folks, either:
“…Subpoenas have been issued around the country, according to the judge…”
Miraculously, for once, a Federal Court then actually reached a decision which defended the Constitution and individual freedom of speech:
Ultimately, Judge Randa’s ruling differentiated between donating to a political candidate, versus advocating for a political cause. Randa correctly stated that the individuals and groups being targeted were first and foremost supporters of Wisconsin’s Act 10, and that makes all the difference.
Conversely, the prosecution maintained that any group which expressly supported Act 10 not be allowed to communicate with the very public officials who passed Act 10. Huh??? Let’s be serious: does anyone really think that the unions and liberal advocacy groups which vociferously OPPOSED Act 10 didn’t also “communicate” with Democrat elected officials?
Of course they did. And as much as I disagreed with their viewpoint, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be legally allowed to do so.
This “investigation” was really just an attempt by the prosecutors to criminalize the exact same behavior by conservatives and Republicans that Democrats and liberals have engaged in, since forever.
As important as this case is, it’s still just one small front in a constant battle. Heck, even the reporting of such events could end up being contested, since there continues to be talk of our government looking to specifically regulate conservative news media. And before anyone laughs off such a possibility as “tinfoil hat” stuff, keep in mind it was just raised by none other than the current chairman of the Federal Election Commission.
Which means that this recent decision by Randa (which is likely to be appealed) will surely have implications and repercussions far beyond just this case.
I certainly pray that it does, at least:
“…Political speech is so ingrained in our culture that speakers find ways to circumvent campaign finance laws. [However], our Nation‘s speech dynamic is changing, and informative voices should not have to circumvent onerous restrictions to exercise their First Amendment rights…”
UPDATE: 5-8-14 at 5:26pm
And the battle continues: “…The on-again, off-again investigation of campaign spending during Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall election was halted Thursday for the second time in less than 48 hours. U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa in Milwaukee stopped the secret probe Tuesday night, but that order was blocked Wednesday by a panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
That court said Randa didn’t have the authority to make Tuesday’s decision but gave him a map to reissue his order — and on Thursday he did so…”