April 27, 2015

I SMELL A WISCONSIN RAT:  Reporter M.D. Kittle at WisconsinWatchdog.org asks a very interesting question:  What did the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel know, and when did it know it?  The question relates to the Journal-Sentinel reporters’ knowledge of a pre-dawn paramilitary-style raid of the home of Cindy Archer, a fomer aide to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and one of the architects of Wisconsin’s Act 10, which reformed that State’s public sector unions.

The raid of Archer’s home occurred in the early morning hours of Wednesday, September 14, 2011.  At the time of the raid, Archer saw an individual that she believed to be a reporter, standing in her lawn.  But the question became:  How would a reporter even know that Archer’s home was being raided?  Someone had to tip the Journal-Sentinel off.  But under Wisconsin law, disclosure of a search warrant’s issuance, prior to its execution, is a Class I felony and could also violate the judge’s secrecy order of the John Doe investigation itself.

The Journal Sentinel ran a story on the Archer raid on the same day that the raid occurred (Sept. 14, 2011), authored by reporter Jason Stein.  In that story, Stein suggests that the raid was associated with the ongoing John Doe investigation:

About a dozen law enforcement officers, including FBI agents, raided the home of a former top aide to Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday as part of a growing John Doe investigation.

The home on Dunning St. on Madison’s east side is owned by Cynthia A. Archer, who was until recently deputy administration secretary to the Republican governor. Archer, 52, now holds a different state job but is on paid sick leave, records show.

“We’re doing a law enforcement action,” one of the FBI agents told a reporter.

He didn’t identify himself or provide further comment but confirmed that he and three others were with the FBI and that a Dane County sheriff’s deputy was present.

The raid on Archer’s home coincides with a John Doe investigation in Milwaukee County.

That probe was started last year after the Journal Sentinel reported that another Walker staffer who was being paid by Milwaukee County taxpayers to help citizens with county services was instead using her work time to post anonymous comments supporting candidate Walker on websites and blogs. As part of the investigation, authorities earlier seized the work computers of two former Walker staffers and executed a search warrant of one of their homes.

Stein also intimates that Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm, one of the John Doe prosecutors, was involved in the raid:

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm also declined to comment.

Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney said one of his deputies had been placed at Archer’s house during the search at the request of investigators from Chisholm’s office. Mahoney said his office wasn’t involved in the investigation.

Sources indicated that Chisholm’s office continues to take the lead in the case of Walker’s former county staffers, with federal authorities providing assistance with computers and other digital technology.

The rest of the Stein story describes prior John Doe raids initiated by Chisholm’s office.  Stein may have just guessed that the raid was John Doe-related, but the tone of his piece seems more confident than that.

Journal Sentinel reporter Patrick Marley–not Stein– has admitted that he was the reporter Cindy Archer saw in her lawn.  But Stein admits that he, not Marley, was tipped off about the Archer raid, and he merely asked Marley to observe and take notes because Marley lived closer to Archer’s home.

So the question remains:  Who tipped off Stein (a political reporter) about the Archer raid?  Stein denies that his source was a prosecutor or law enforcement officer, and it’s theoretically possible (though somewhat farfetched) that one of Archer’s groggy neighbors just happened to know Stein’s home or cell phone number and called him in the middle of the night to tip him off.

The John Doe investigation has been plagued by selective leaks all along, is an ongoing problem, and is almost invariably favorable to the prosecutors. All of this strongly indicates that the source of these leaks is an insider in the John Doe investigation.  While Stein appears to claim a reporters’ privilege to protect his source regarding the Archer raid, Wisconsin does not have a reporters’ shield statute, its courts have recognized only a qualified privilege pursuant to its state constitutional equivalent of the First Amendment.  So in theory, the identity of Stein’s source could be revealed under the right circumstances.

But regardless of Stein’s possible privilege, it seems evident that there is a serious and continuing leak in the Wisconsin John Doe investigation, and that it warrants an investigation of its own.

Indeed, if it hadn’t been for the courage of Eric O’Keefe of the Wisconsin Club for Growth–who has defied the ridiculous gag order imposed on John Doe targets–the only knowledge the public would have today about the investigation would come from these one-sided, pro-investigation leaks. But getting the truth about an issue of such public importance shouldn’t depend upon the courage of one person. The leak’s one-way nature and suspicious timing only amplify the impression that the entire investigation is, as O’Keefe’s lawsuit contends, a political witch hunt, designed to silence conservatives in the State.  Thankfully, O’Keefe is punching back twice as hard.

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