A new report on a government spying operation conducted by partisan bureaucrats should outrage and scare Americans everywhere. It shows what can happen when, as the report says, partisans “weaponize” a government agency and use its powers to advance “political goals.”
Americans already have seen that when federal bureaucrats such as Lois Lerner or Samantha Power do that with the fearsome power of the IRS and our intelligence agencies, we face a threat to our liberty and the democratic process that is unparalleled in our history.
The 88-page report by Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel details the notorious “John Doe” investigations that went after almost every conservative, nonprofit organization in Wisconsin (the state chapter of Club for Growth among them) for supposed violations of campaign finance laws.
Except that there were not any actual violations of the law, according to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The court shut down the prosecutions in 2015, calling the legal theory under which the prosecutors were pursuing the case “unsupported in either reason or law.”
The state’s highest court used the word “amazing” in describing the “breadth” of documents seized by prosecutors through numerous, wide-ranging subpoenas and search warrants. This included “virtually every document possessed by the [targets] relating to every aspect of their lives, both personal and professional, over a five-year span.”
The report from Schimel, a Republican, has an unbelievable list of 218 subpoenas and search warrants issued in the investigation—and this is only a “partial” list.
Prosecutors treated conservative organizations as if they were dangerous drug cartels or mob operations. As the Wisconsin Supreme Court said, they executed search warrants against the personal homes and families of the leaders of these nonprofits in “pre-dawn, armed, paramilitary-style raids in which bright floodlights were used to illuminate the targets’ homes.”
Here is the meritless theory behind the investigations: Any support for issues important to Gov. Scott Walker, such as the bill reducing union power over state government employees, was illegal “coordination.”
As the state Supreme Court said, however, our democracy is supposed to assure the “unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people.” Instead, the prosecutors’ theories “would assure that such political speech will be investigated with paramilitary-style home invasions conducted in the pre-dawn hours and then prosecuted and punished.”
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