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OPINION

Wisconsin's Morning After

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Regarding mornings, put me in Sheriff Hopper’s camp. He’s the Stranger Things character, repeatedly informing folks: “Mornings are for coffee and contemplation.”

Speaking of stranger things, who expects an early-morning SWAT-like police raid on their home?

Three years ago, that’s what happened to Cindy Archer. Near dawn, a dozen police officers in flak jackets pounded on her door, carrying a battering ram just in case. Her dogs were “freaking out” and she feared they’d be shot. The police ransacked her home, confiscating her computer and smart phone as evidence.

This was a secretive John Doe investigation, so Ms. Archer was also informed she mustn’t discuss the raid with anyone, her lawyer excepted. The raid was very public, the media tipped off, but Archer was prevented from defending herself publicly. Or even privately, among friends and relatives.

Her suspected crime?

She had supported Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to reform the law regarding public employee unions, known as Act 10. And it was alleged there had been fundraising “coordination” in pursuit thereof. [Gasp!]

That is, she had worked with others to effect change. And so she was not the only one to be attacked in the morning police raid. There were many others.

The gag order, also slapped on conservatives in 29 other groups, might have prevented us from knowing the partisan political assault then taking place, but for Eric O’Keefe, the head of the Wisconsin Club for Growth, courageously speaking out.

“Had I honored their secrecy order, I couldn’t have organized our defense,” Mr. O’Keefe told Blaze TV. “I decided quickly — look, this is supposed to be a free country, I’m going to operate as though it is, even if it isn’t today.”

The rest makes history. First, John Doe Judge Gregory Peterson squashed numerous subpoenas and ordered the probe to close. Prosecutors appealed.

O’Keefe went to federal court as well, and soon Judge Rudolph T. Randa also agreed that Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and the Government Accountability Board were violating O’Keefe’s civil rights. Randa warned: “[A]ttempts to purify the public square lead to places like the Guillotine and the Gulag.”

Randa’s ruling was stayed pending the outcome of the appeal to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Next, the highest Badger State court’s majority wrote emphatically, “It is utterly clear that the special prosecutor has employed theories of law that do not exist in order to investigate citizens who were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing.”

Notice a pattern?

Still, the persecutors persisted, even asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, overrule the Wisconsin court, and allow their witch-hunt to resume. Last week, the nation’s High Court denied Milwaukee County’s appeal, thereby finally ending the Milwaukee County DA’s reign of error and terror.

So what have we learned?

First, courage is contagious. Had Eric O’Keefe not bravely breached the gag order, others would have remained quiet, and the prosecutors might have gotten away with what National Review’s David French called “a pure intimidation tactic to try to terrify conservatives into silence.”

Another unmistakable conclusion: yes indeed, it can happen here.

It has . . . obviously.

And if changes are not made, it will happen again.

Several important reforms have already been won. Not only is this John Doe investigation shut down, the law was altered, prohibiting further John Doe investigations of this kind. The Government Accountability Board (GAB), found to have acted from partisan political motives, has been completely disbanded — abolished! The state legislature has established brand new ethics bodies to replace it.

Another avenue of correction may come through the courts. The state’s John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy filed a class-action lawsuit against Mr. Chisholm, the Milwaukee County prosecutor, others in his office, GAB Director Kevin Kennedy, Francis Schmitz, the GAB’s special prosecutor, and several others previously employed by the GAB, for illegally seizing documents.

The lawsuit alleges that, “Defendants wanted to amass as much politically sensitive material as possible, for as long as possible, before any person could bring defendants’ theory or conduct before a proper court.”

In fact, even though all the information vacuumed up by prosecutors was sealed by court order, not to be made public, more than 1,500 pages of documents were illegally leaked to The Guardian newspaper.

Who leaked this information? Well, it was in the possession of the persecutors in Milwaukee County and the misnamed Government Accountability Board . . . and no one has yet alleged a Russian hack.

State Rep. Dave Craig is urging the creation of a special legislative committee to “take sworn testimony . . . to determine whether those charged with the public trust have acted maliciously by intentionally leaking sealed materials in violation of state policy.”

O’Keefe confirms the political motivations behind the once secret investigation, noting that “even though they never brought a charge, the prosecutors did achieve one of their major goals: the unlawful seizure of millions of private communications to create a searchable database of political intelligence spanning Wisconsin and the entire country.”

Additionally, Cindy Archer, whose home was one of several raided by police, has filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court. Dismissing her suit, a federal district judge ruled that the prosecutors had immunity from such legal complaints. But that dismissal is now on appeal before the federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Yes, the prosecutors are gettingtheir day in court . . . as defendants.

Let’s hope judges and state legislators and every human being who cares about freedom will wake up and smell the coffee, seriously contemplating the danger of partisan police raids on peaceful citizens.

And decide: Never again.

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