Last Friday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, signed a bill into law that would effectively prohibit any covert investigations into political wrongdoing. It is interesting in that these covert investigations were effectively used in the past to convict four of Scott Walker’s own aides and to investigate his political campaigns.
Now, however, Governor Scott Walker won’t have to endure any more intrusive investigations.
Wisconsin laws previously had allowed witnesses to use what was referred to as a “John Doe” proceeding to request search warrants, call witnesses, and offer immunity in cases where probable cause that a crime was committed is yet to be confirmed. Now, however, Governor Scott Walker has signed legislation insuring that prosecutors won’t be able to use the John Doe proceedings to investigate things like political misconduct and bribery. After last Friday, the only thing that prosecutors will be able to use the John Doe law on will be limited to other, more violent felonies.
Additionally, the new law signed by Governor Scott Walker also places a six-month time limit on secret probes in Wisconsin and limits the secrecy to district attorneys, law enforcement officials, judges, and investigators. The secrecy under the new law will not extend to witnesses and suspects under investigation.
As expected, Scott Walker signing the law that gets rid of the John Doe proceedings was both cheered and jeered at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison.
Democratic Representative Peter Barca admonished Walker.
“We may never know if there are political crooks popping champagne corks today knowing that their crimes will now be very difficult to investigate and even harder to prosecute.”
On the other side, one of Scott’s backers, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, was glad that the John Doe proceeding was put to bed.
“These changes were desperately needed in Wisconsin and our state is better off now that it’s law.”
The state senate and assembly in Wisconsin are both controlled by the Republicans, and the vote to pass legislation to eliminate the John Doe proceedings followed party lines.
Scott Walker survived a recall election in 2012. Only a few months after Governor Walker celebrated that win, a John Doe investigation was initiated involving the Wisconsin Club for Growth (a conservative advocacy group), Scott’s campaign to ward off the recall, and the campaigns of the other candidates involved in the recall election. The result? Governor Walker’s campaign was found to be above-board. What’s more, the campaign was found to not have broken any campaign finance laws during the course of the recall election.
However, before Scott ever came to Madison, back when he was the Milwaukee County Executive from 2002 to 2010, a separate John Doe investigation brought back a verdict that wasn’t quite so squeaky clean. As a result of the John Doe investigation, six people were convicted, including four of Scott Walker’s aides, on charges that included embezzlement and general misconduct.
Walker was elected Governor of Wisconsin in 2010. As stated above, Scott survived the recall election in 2012, and then went on to be elected to a second term in 2014. Governor Walker caused a firestorm in 2011 when he did an overnight phase out of collective bargaining for state workers. There were protests in and around the capitol building in Madison, where tens of thousands of citizens complained about Governor Walker.
In 2014, after being reelected, Walker slashed funding to the University of Wisconsin system, earning the ire and rancor of all Wisconsinites that treasure The Wisconsin Idea whereby the university system is supported by the state and the system in turn offers advice, provides information, and offers its technical skill to better the state.
Adlai Stevenson explained The Wisconsin Idea as the following.
“…the Wisconsin tradition meant more than a simple belief in the people. It also meant a faith in the application of intelligence and reason to the problems of society. It meant a deep conviction that the role of government was not to stumble along like a drunkard in the dark, but to light its way by the best torches of knowledge and understanding it could find.”
Governor Scott Walker never graduated from college.
[Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images]