The Scott Walker Investigation WAS Partisan: Republicans Won and the Milwaukee D.A. Got Neutered

In early 2012, nominally-Democratic Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm filed bribery charges against Johnny Thomas, a Milwaukee County supervisor, rising star and shoo-in candidate for city comptroller.

The evidence was flimsy but Chisholm took Thomas to trial. Later that year, Thomas quickly was acquitted (but his reputation was damaged and career was derailed).

Previous to the Thomas failure, Chisholm had secured the convictions of another Milwaukee Democratic county supervisor and a Democratic alderman.

In all three cases, Republicans cheered lustily, pointing at a Democratic culture of corruption and, in two of them, Chisholm teamed up with Wisconsin’s Tea Party Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who was all-too-happy to lend investigative resources and pose for holy pictures.

Fast-forward to the John Doe criminal probe of Scott Walker, which began when Walker still was county executive.

The attorney general declined to participate, in an unusual move, leaving Chisholm in the crosshairs of a relentless assault by Scott Walker proxies, who cried (and yet cry) “partisan witch hunt” at every turn.

But the “hunt” looks very much more like a punt.

Chisholm obtained the convictions of 6 Walker allies and aides for 15 felonies and 3 misdemeanors. And a second investigation looks to be targeting some Walker allies. But ultimately, the Democrat Chisholm has been played like a violin by Republicans here who, as the massive torrent of emails released this week relating to the case show, have thumbed their nose at the laws and norms of what once was a good-government bastion.

Let’s be honest: John Chisholm wilted in the face of Walker intimidation and has let crimes go unpunished, either not to be seen as partisan himself or because the target was too haughty.

The evidence against Thomas was far weaker than what we now can see is evident about Walker and his entire political circle. In virtually every corner of this very-limited email and document dump released by an appeals judge this week, the stench of public corruption wafts keen.

Whether it’s Walker campaign staff seeking to alter county contracts, to Walker’s county executive staff being used as a de facto political operation on the public dime. Secret communications and router system to evade state Open Records law are followed by Walker personally managing coverups and campaign staff potentially participating in “voter caging,” a vile tactic to suppress minority voting.

Wisconsin has never seen this level of corruption, but neither has it seen an amoral politician the likes of Walker.

BUT-unlike Walker, Thomas did not have mountains of cash at his disposal and unrelenting media exposure from paid pleaders attacking the prosecution.

Chisholm has let Walker off the hook and now, as Walker moistly flexes his presidential ambitions, he and his allies are engaged in a dishonest game that’s easy to play: Nothing to see here, and the absence of charges equal exoneration.

This is foolish of course, and not even like a tree falling in the woods with nobody to hear. It’s more like Walker saying, “I am not a tree. I did not fall in the woods. And anyway, nobody is around to see it.”

Chisholm is a coward and should be called to explain his inaction in the face of a cascade of evidence. He did not let down Democrats-he let down all citizens who still believe in a Wisconsin that, before Walker, was as clean as our glacial lakes.

But it goes beyond that. It is time for the elected leaders of Wisconsin to demand public hearings on what has thus far been revealed about Scott Walker’s plainly illegal conduct-and about what still remains in the shadows thanks to a Democratic prosecutor who seems willing to go after everyone but Republicans.

Graeme Zielinski was communications director of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. He is a native of Milwaukee, where he lives.


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8 thoughts on “The Scott Walker Investigation WAS Partisan: Republicans Won and the Milwaukee D.A. Got Neutered

  1. The seeming double-standard is sickening, certainly. Very difficult to stand up to these people – Chisholm probably had something to lose and their power post-recall seemed endless. Still a coward but ultimately idiot Wisconsin GOP voters are most at fault for hoisting corrupt Walker on the rest of us and allowing themselves to be blinded by worthless tax cuts and anti-union hatred.

  2. Let’s not forget our Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen was “in absentia” declining to use state resources to assist in the probe.

    If Chisholm is a coward, then Van Hollen is a “gutless coward” and knowingly betrayed his oath of office by placing politics over justice. Van Hollen’s actions, or lack thereof, is the greater crime. I wouldn’t trust him to catch stray dogs.

  3. Will the feds be accused of prosecutorial cowardice when they don’t pursue charges on the clear violations of federal election law? Or will it be just one more indication that the justice system, like the rest of government, is rotten from bottom to top? These endless investigations that merely disappear into the sunset like yesterday’s news cycle may as well be called the American Bar Association Full Employment Act. There is no other outcome, no other benefit here other than to line the pockets of rich lawyers and the people they are paid to protect. Plutocracy is thriving while those who still believe we have a democracy are circling the drain.

  4. How can a duly elected District Attorney be intimidated by investigating “haughty” elected officials IF the evidence is there to net a conviction and the law is on his side? Doing so would be a violation of his oath of office. It seems this editorial blog is nothing more than a failed attempt to tilt at a windmill. The writer fails to mention that the initial John Doe investigation was called for by Gov. Walker and DA Chisholm followed every lead possible to expand the investigation beyond the initial inquiry regarding missing monies. If there was evidence to get a conviction of any others; do you really believe Chisholm would have short circuited that opportunity? I think not given his track record.

  5. Bob, thanks for defending DA Chisholm, who also was responsible for starting the second round of John Doe’s investigations. Does Gov. Walker support those too?

    Should DA Chisholm run for Governor?

  6. Remember the Van Holleran doctrine, “it may have been illegal but it wasn’t criminal”
    if we did it.

  7. Sad that this blog allows someone to write for it who tweets garbage like this. Former Democratic Party of WI communications director Graeme Zielinski posted this tweet yesterday:

    @gjzielinski – We can ALL agree that @MCSOSheriff’s wife should have a gun. (So she can shoot him.)

    So gun violence is OK with this blog as long it’s people you approve of.

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