Your right to know: Release Wisconsin John Doe II case


In 2012, the second John Doe investigation looked into the links between Gov. Walker and conservative groups, known as “dark money” groups who benefited from Walker’s recall election. The investigation and the reasons why it was shut down, is being kept in the dark, hidden from public view.

Dee J. Hall of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, argues that the public has a right to know the full facts and arguments considered when the state Supreme Court shut down the John Doe II investigation.

Hall writes:

One of the most important court decisions in Wisconsin political history was argued largely in secret. The arguments were made in briefs that were heavily redacted or entirely shielded from public view. The evidence was hidden. Most of the litigants were anonymous.

The level of secrecy “is something I haven’t ever heard of happening in Wisconsin,” says David Schultz, a retired University of Wisconsin law professor who has watched the state Supreme Court for 40 years.

Unless the high court decides to unseal its files, the public will remain ignorant of the full facts and arguments it considered when it shut down the John Doe II investigation centered on Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign — known in court documents as “Unnamed Movant No. 1.”

Leaked and inadvertently unsealed records revealed that Walker raised large, undisclosed donations for ostensibly independent political groups, which in turn ran “issue ads” prior to the 2011 and 2012 Senate recall elections and the 2012 gubernatorial recall. These are unregulated, thinly veiled communications often intended to influence elections without expressly advocating for or against any candidate.

When two lawsuits aimed at killing the probe and a third filed by prosecutor Francis Schmitz attempting to save it made their way to the Supreme Court, the majority of justices agreed that most of the issues should be argued in secret to prevent “testimony which may be mistaken or untrue from becoming public.”

For more, visit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism