Schimel's Hack Job on the John Doe Leak

by Matthew Rothschild, Executive Director

December 15, 2017

The report that Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel released on the John Doe leak was a partisan hack job.

Here are five reasons why:

1. Schimel shouldn’t have released the report in the first place.

Schimel acted like James Comey in the Hillary Clinton investigation. After finding that he could not successfully prosecute Clinton, Comey violated prosecutorial ethics by then publishing a report besmirching her reputation. Schimel did the exact same thing here. He admitted that he couldn’t find who leaked the John Doe material to the Guardian, but then he went ahead and besmirched the reputations of the John Doe prosecutor and the staff of the Government Accountability Board (GAB). He should have either brought charges, or shut up.

2. Schimel hypocritically investigated one leak but not another.

There is no mystery about one leak of the John Doe material. This wasn’t done by anyone at the Government Accountability Board or anyone on the John Doe prosecutor’s staff. No, it was actually committed by one of the persons being investigated: Eric O’Keefe of Wisconsin Club for Growth. He intentionally violated the secrecy order by going to the Wall Street Journal and then bragged about doing it on rightwing talk radio. Schimel did not pursue O’Keefe, however, for leaking. Why the double standard?

3. Schimel gave Scott Walker and others a sweeping exoneration even though his report was not designed as an investigation of the legal bases for the John Doe II and John Doe III* investigations.

Going way beyond the scope of his report, Schimel issued this whitewash: “No piece of John II or III* evidence reviewed by DOJ suggests illegal or unethical conduct.” And Schimel declared that “Republican staffers, campaign workers, and fundraisers were diligent in separating their state work from their campaign work.”

(*“John Doe III” was the label Schimel himself gave to a Government Accountability Board investigation of whether Republican officials were doing campaign work on the public’s dime. John Doe II was the official investigation of whether Walker and outside groups, such as Wisconsin Club for Growth, violated the law on the books at the time that said candidates could not cooperate with outside groups.)

4. Schimel made sweeping and unsubstantiated charges that the GAB was out to get Walker, offering a post-facto justification for the destruction of the GAB.

Writes Schimel: “GAB attorneys had prejudged the guilt of Walker, Wisconsin Republicans, and related organizations that they were investigating and this dramatically influenced their ability to give competent legal advice.” This is a conclusion that is not backed up by the report. The attorneys were doing what they were supposed to do: Investigate whether campaign finance laws may have been violated: They gathered evidence – and there was a mountain of it – that Scott Walker violated the law against coordination. They weren’t saying he was guilty; they were seeing whether there was enough evidence to bring a criminal case.

5. Schimel’s allegations of misconduct against Special Prosecutor Frances Schmitz and GAB director Kevin Kennedy are puny.

He admits that Schmitz could not have been the leaker: “Special Prosecutor Schmitz did not access, possess, or examine emails that were subsequently leaked” and so the Justice Department “was able to rule out” Schmitz as the leaker. Schimel’s report also strongly suggests that it wasn’t Kevin Kennedy, either.

So what does Schimel have on either of them, then? He claims that Schmitz didn’t hand over all the documents they had to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a timely fashion or that they let some people working on the investigation continue to inspect the files after a court ordered them sealed. But there is no suggestion that Schmitz intentionally failed to hand over all the documents. In fact, as the report notes, he sent 13 boxes full of documents over to the court. And as to other charge, Schmitz disputes that, saying that Schimel confused two different court orders and that Schmitz obeyed every order. As for Kevin Kennedy, there is precious little in this report that suggests any grounds for a contempt charge. Schimel is asking the John Doe judge to cite Schmitz and Kennedy for contempt, but there is nothing in this report that goes anywhere near demonstrating that they intentionally violated a court order. The allegation that they committed an act of contempt is scurrilous. It is nothing more than a partisan act of revenge against two straight-arrow, upstanding, decent men who had the gall to do their duty: to investigate whether Scott Walker and the conservative network around him violated the law against coordination.

The message of the Schimel report is unmistakable: If you dare to question Walker, we will do everything in our power to destroy your reputation and hound you for the remaining days of your life.

Brad Schimel is not the leading law enforcement officer of Wisconsin. He’s the leading attack dog for Scott Walker, the Republican Party of Wisconsin, and their allied groups.