Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Investigation as political warfare - intended or not

My column in the Wall Street Journal on the John Doe investigation and its impact on Wisconsin politics can be found here. The headline for the piece (which I did not write) goes a bit further than the column itself. I am less concerned with the motives of those who have launched what I regard to be an assault on free speech than I am with the consequences of their actions.

Nevertheless, I don't have a lot of sympathy for the prosecutors' complaints about their motives being questioned. The idea that a Democratic partisan launched a more or less unconstrained and unending series of investigations of a Republican looks bad. The appearance of impropriety is heightened by the fact that some of the legal theories that the prosecutors are pushing are highly questionable and the tactics employed - pre-dawn raids and leaning on witnesses - are dangerous overkill when the subject is, at it is here, fraught with free speech concerns.

Chisholm may be pure of heart but he and his colleagues have only themselves to blame for the accusations being made against them. As soon as this was about political activities by Republicans, they should have gotten out. Entirely. Unfortunately, that point arose sometime in the summer of 2010. Over four years later, they still aren't out.

Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin


Anonymous said...

Rick: Are you really that surprised that the Wall Street Journal slapped a hyperpartisan headline on your conservative viewpoint? This is same editorial board that anonymously made veiled threats to our Governor simply because the Journal thought he was negiotiating a plea. It was fitting that Scooter cowered to the anonymous out of state paper like a little lap dog. To me, that was embarrisng for our entire state, regardless of which political persuasion you are.

As for your non-critical criticism of the prosecutors, you are seriously misinformed or are unwilling to depart from the hyper-conservative narrative. You seem to suggest that DAs should not prosecute those on the opposite side of the political line out of fear of retaliation claims. That's ridiculous, and hopefully no DA would ever follow your suggestion. Moreover, I suggest you educate yourself on the procedural history here before telling others how they should have done their jobs. For a snapshot, please note that the prosecutors did seek out our Republican AG to take over the campaign finance investigation. But our brave Republican AG thought he would look too partisan if he took it over. Apparently, he believed it was in the state's better interest to fight same sex marriages than potential political corruption.

Finally, the next time you call a public official out for not doing his job right, have the respect to spell his or her name right.

Rick Esenberg said...

First, the headline is not hyper partisan. Headlines almost always simplify and it just goes a bit further than I did. Second, my criticism is not "non-critical." it's quite critical. Third, I don't suggest that they prosecute persons on the other side. How about prosecuting no one? Fourth, the DA's office should have gotten out of this long before they turned to Van Hollen or the GAB. And when they did "turn it over," they should have gotten out.

JM said...

"How about prosecuting no one?"

It's not your decision to make.

"Fourth, the DA's office should have gotten out of this long before they turned to Van Hollen or the GAB. And when they did "turn it over," they should have gotten out."

You should know, professor, that is up to the discretion of the DA to take up a case, regardless if the evidence is flimsy to begin with, or if there are seemingly political axes to grind. But the opposing side, per usual, will circle the wagons and try to make the case that the DA is using his/her office other than what is is intended for. The same accusations were made when investigating Nixon, Clinton, Bush, Obama, etc. Whether or not there is misconduct by the DA in the form of a witch hunt, better have the smoking gun rather than bullet fragments.

Anonymous said...

Oh! So you do know the Republican DA and nonpartisan GAB were involved. Hmmmm...where are those facts mentioned in your Wall Street Journal piece? They don't seem to jibe with the prosecutors/campaign partisans headline. I guess whatever it takes to rile up the base rather than have a meangingful discourse. Even if that means calling into question the ethics of your colleagues within the bar by ignoring facts. Just politics, right? I'll at least give you credit for not going after the wives of the prosecutors as your comrades have.