Judge's Ruling Shows that the John Doe IS the Scandal
Friday’s ruling by the judge overseeing the John Doe probe of conservatives underlines the central feature of this scandal:
The scandal in Wisconsin is not that conservative groups engaged in political advocacy; the real scandal is the vindictive abuse of prosecutorial discretion by partisan investigators conducting a secret probe targeting political opponents. In comparison, the Obama Administration’s IRS scandal almost seems like weak tea.
The massive criminal investigation supposedly was aimed at ferreting out illegal "coordination" between conservative groups and the campaign of Governor Scott Walker . (No liberal or Democrat organizations were targeted.) But in throwing out many of the subpoenas in the probe, Judge Gregory Peterson ruled that the conduct the Doe prosecutors were investigating was not a crime at all.
The judge rejected the prosecution’s basis for the investigation in ruling that they "do not show probable cause that the moving parties committed any violations of the campaign finance laws."
Wisconsin's campaign finance statutes ban coordination between independent groups and candidates for a "political purpose." But a political purpose "requires express advocacy," the judge wrote, and express advocacy means directly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate.
"There is no evidence of express advocacy" and therefore "the subpoenas fail to show probable cause that a crime was committed," Judge Peterson wrote. Even "the State is not claiming that any of the independent organizations expressly advocated" for the election of Mr. Walker or his opponent, he added. Instead they did "issue advocacy," which focuses on specific political issues.
So what was the probe all about? The Wall Journal Street was scathing:
This means that prosecutors essentially invented without evidence the possibility of criminal behavior to justify the subpoenas and their thuggish tactics. At least three targets had their homes raided at dawn, with police turning over belongings, seizing computers and files, and even barring phone calls. [Emphasis added.]
This cries out for context, which comes easily to hand: the IRS scandal. The parallels and differences are worth exploring.