Is Scott Walker in big trouble or isn’t he?
I’d like to say that where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire. But that adage doesn’t always pertain in the world of politics.
Still, THIS STUFF raises some questions:
It’s a topic so hot in Wisconsin, no one involved with it can talk about it. A wide-ranging investigation, a special prosecutor, and the cloak of secrecy.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported this week that a former federal prosecutor had been appointed to lead a “John Doe investigation” into state-level issues in Wisconsin, including the 2011 and 2012 recall elections. And this John Doe investigation reportedly grew out of an earlier John Doe probe, which closed in March after snaring six former aides and associates of Gov. Scott Walker (R).
But hang on a second. What exactly is a John Doe investigation? For those outside Wisconsin, the term may be unfamiliar, and with good reason. Wisconsin may be the only state that uses them.
David Schultz, who teaches criminal law at the University of Wisconsin Law School, spoke to TPM on Wednesday, and explained how John Doe investigations work and why they’re used.
“The most common description of them is, it’s just like a grand jury except no jury,” Schultz said. “It’s a secret proceeding [in which] you can require people to give testimony and, as I say, therefore obtain information that you might not be able to get with just voluntary cooperation.”
According to Schultz, grand juries are rarely used in Wisconsin, in large part because “this more compact, accessible John Doe procedure is available.”
According to the Journal Sentinel,, the current investigation opened in February 2012, involves multiple Wisconsin counties, and is looking at a number of issues, including the recall races, a current legislative leader, and the 2012 gubernatorial recall contest between Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Francis Schmitz, a former assistant U.S. attorney, has reportedly been appointed as a special prosecutor to lead the probe.
The previous John Doe investigation, which closed in March, uncovered misdeeds including illegal campaign contributions, illegal campaign activity, and embezzlement of veterans’ funds from Walker’s time as Milwaukee County executive, according to The Wisconsin State Journal. All told, six people plead to charges ranging from stealing tens of thousands of dollars from a veterans event to doing campaign work while on the county clock, according to the Journal Sentinel.