I have a mountain of high priority tasks to scale today -- without rope, pitons, or spring-loaded crevice anchors, at that -- and can't spare the time for a typically circumlocuitous Fran Porretto diatribe at heavenly length, so I must make do. Accordingly, ignore the historical errors in this article -- neither McCarthy nor Nixon was the monster the author claims -- and focus on the important bit:
Newly unsealed federal court documents show that a crew of local [Wisconsin] prosecutors — Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat, his assistants, Bruce Landgraf and David Robles, a figurehead special prosecutor named Francis Schmitz, and a contract investigator named Dean Nickel — have exploited state law to seize “more or less all” the records of the Wisconsin Club for Growth and every other conservative group in the state dating back to 2009 as part of a boundless investigation of their own wild hunches.
Despite their unhindered access to the complete inner workings of the conservative movement in Wisconsin, these prosecutors have come up with nothing. They say they’re looking into campaign finance violations, but the facts they’ve compiled don’t even amount to “probable cause” to believe a crime has taken place, according to the state court that finally halted the investigation earlier this year. For one reason, the “issue ads” that the Wisconsin Club for Growth ran in defense of the state’s collective bargaining reforms “cannot be and are not subject to Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws,” according to a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph T. Randa.
But prosecutors knew that before they started. In a sense, they’re trying to prove murder when they know nobody died. The distinction between issue advocacy, which is constitutionally protected free speech, and express advocacy of a candidate, which may be regulated to prevent corruption, has been around since 1976, and is understood by just about everyone, even these prosecutors. The local media don’t get it, but what else is new?
The prosecutors’ real intent in having armed officers in flak vests storming homes at dawn and in issuing as many as 100 subpoenas to 29 different right-of-center organizations is to shut down conservatives in Wisconsin, according to the plaintiffs. And in that, they’ve been wildly successful, as all of the most active conservative groups are off the airwaves and taking few phone calls from their fellows, lest they get hit with new subpoenas and criminal accusations.
It's been said many times with regard to indictments for nonsense crimes and crimes one did not commit that the process is the punishment. It's highly likely that the prosecutors mentioned above, all of them partisan Democrats, were aware that no conviction would ever result from the seizures and other actions they undertook against Wisconsin conservative groups. That didn't matter nearly as much as the intimidating effect their actions had on those groups and on any others that might otherwise have formed and become active. The prospect of unforeseeable expense and difficulty -- always the case when defending oneself against the State, no matter how baseless the charge -- is enough to silence most of us.
Herein lies statists' least discussed, most insidious weapon against their opponents: prosecutorial discretion. Time was, no such action would have been countenanced without a Fourth-Amendment-conformant "Oath or Affirmation" that an offense against the law had occurred. Other organs of the judicial system would have moved to quash any such witch-hunt. That still happens now and then today, but not nearly as frequently as it should.
Prosecutorial discretion, when coupled to sovereign immunity -- doctrines absolutely anathema to the Anglo-American legal tradition -- make it possible for statists to conceal evil motives behind a cloak of righteousness. No one can come out against "law enforcement" without exposing himself to pillory as an "anarchist." Worse, when the evil motives are revealed and the pressure is removed from the statists' targets, no remedy is applied and no restitution is offered to the victims.
A long time ago, in commenting on a similar case that occurred in Florida, the legendary Russell Baker wrote that "When the government says it is going to get you, it is going to get you." It appears that nothing has changed since then, except for the identities and political orientations of the prosecutors and their targets.