Conservative O’Keefe seeks investigation into John Chisholm and his John Doe

Part 128 of 127 in the series Wisconsin’s Secret War

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. – The man who sued the prosecutors of a secret John Doe investigation into dozens of conservative groups now wants the lead prosecutor investigated on charges of feloniously using his office for political persecution and personal reward.

Long-time political activist Eric O’Keefe, a director of the Wisconsin Club for Growth, on Monday sent a certified letter to Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm demanding that Chisholm ask the Milwaukee County Circuit Court to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the conduct of the DA and his office.

Chisholm was not in his office Monday morning, according to an assistant. He could not be reached for comment.

O’Keefe notes that Wisconsin law prohibits a district attorney from using the powers and privileges of his office for the financial benefit of himself, his immediate family members, or an organization with which his immediate family members are associated.

A distric attorney also is prohibited from using those powers and privileges to obtain an unlawful advantage for third parties, such as political candidates and recall committees; to obtain through official functions for those illegitimate purposes; and from allowing his office to become de facto campaign grounds.

“Recently, credible factual reports suggest that you may have done all these things,” O’Keefe states in the letter.

INVESTIGATE THE INVESTIGATORS: Conservative activist Eric O’Keefe sent a certified letter Monday asking for an investigation into Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, the Democrat who launched the secret John Doe probe into dozens of conservative groups.

He refers to recent bombshell allegations by former Milwaukee police officer Michael Lutz, who for several months served as an unpaid special prosecutor in Chisholm’s office.

Lutz in an article earlier this month claimed that Chisholm, a Democrat, told Lutz in March 2011 of his personal vendetta against Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

“He felt it was his personal duty to stop people from being treated like this, to stop Walker from treating people like this,” Lutz told Wisconsin Reporter.

Lutz, in a Sept. 9 story, told legal reporter Stuart Taylor that Chisholm was furious with Walker for his public-sector collective-bargaining reforms known as Act 10. Lutz said Chisholm told him the legislation reduced Chisholm’s wife, Colleen, to tears. Colleen Chisholm, as has been reported, served as a union shop steward at a Milwaukee area public school in 2011.

Lutz, up until Sept. 9, was a long-time family friend of the Chisholms. Lutz’s former law enforcement partner was Colleen Chisholm’s brother, Jon Osowski. Lutz said he was among a select few in Chisholm’s trusted “inner circle.”

The Milwaukee County DA and his underlings have spent more than four years investigating the people surrounding Walker, first when Walker was Milwaukee County executive and running for governor, then during his first term and amid the bitter, partisan recall campaigns against him.

More than two years ago, Chisholm launched a secret John Doe probe into at least 29 conservative organizations, including the Wisconsin Club for Growth. The investigation operated under the “legal theory” that the groups had illegally coordinated with Walker’s camp during the 2011 and ’12 recall season.

Two judges, including the presiding John Doe judge, have debunked that theory, ruling that the prosecutors provided no evidence to show campaign finance crimes had been committed.

While the legal counsel for John Doe special prosecutor Francis Schmitz has attempted to correct media accounts that Walker was never a target of the probe, court documents released through O’Keefe’s civil rights lawsuit against the prosecutors show Chisholm and crew were feverishly digging into Walker’s campaign.

Lutz told Wisconsin Reporter that Chisholm’s mission has long been a personal war on Walker.

“I don’t think there ever was a doubt about who they were going after in that DA’s office,” he said. “It was called the ‘Walker John Doe.’ It was never called anything else. All the conversations were very clear of who they wanted.”

In his letter seeking an investigation into the Milwaukee County DA, O’Keefe states the purpose is:

  • “To determine whether and the extent to which you (Chisholm) exercised the privileges of your office to obtain a private benefit for you, your wife, and an organization with which you were associated within the meaning of Wisconsin law by targeting Scott Walker and supporters of his policies in an effort to provide financial benefits and services to a labor union where your wife is an agent.
  • To determine whether and the extent to which you (Chisholm) exercised the privileges of your office to obtain a dishonest advantage for the Committee to Recall Scott Walker, his special-(recall) election opponent (Milwaukee Mayor) Tom Barrett, and his current gubernatorial opponent Mary Burke, in violation of Wisconsin Statutes, by targeting Walker and supporters of his policies for the purpose of aiding the recall, special-election, and now general-election efforts.
  • To determine whether and the extent to which you (Chisholm) exercised the privileges of your office inconsistent with the duties of that office by using and disclosing information both to obtain a private benefit (as stated above) and to obtain a dishonest advantage (as stated above) in violation of Wisconsin Statutes, by using the information you obtained through the John Doe investigation to identify further avenues to attack Walker and his allies as well as disclosing the information to aid the recall, special-election, and now general-election campaigns of Walker’s opponents.

Conservative critics have accused Chisholm and other agents involved in the multi-county probe of leaking information and maneuvering to dump court documents from the supposedly secret dragnet into the public arena. Headlines screaming of Walker’s alleged “criminal scheme,” did their intended damage in hotly contested gubernatorial elections, O’Keefe’s charges state.

O’Keefe also says the investigation should determine whether the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office really was a den of “hyper-partisan” activity, as Lutz told Wisconsin Reporter and other publications.

“You’ve seen the people worked up at the Capitol. That’s how worked up the people were in the office,” he said.

He did not want to divulge any names of partisan prosecutors, but he has told other media outlets that it was not uncommon to see the iconic blue-fist posters of the anti-Walker movement hanging in a prosecutor’s office.

Wisconsin Reporter has learned that Assistant DA Irene Parthum had such a sign in her office, according to sources. Parthum was one of at least 19 assistant DA’s to sign petitions to recall Walker in 2012, according to conservative news outlet Media Trackers.

“Based on the statements of Mr. Lutz and other publicly known information, there is reason to believe you used the privileges and powers of your office to obtain a financial benefit or other thing of substantial value’ for yourself, your immediate family members, or the union of your immediate family member,” O’Keefe writes in the letter to Chisholm.

As a union leader, the defeat of Walker’s collective-bargaining reforms would have resulted in a “financial benefit to the union and, by consequence,” to Chisholm and his family, as well as a “proprietary benefit” to Colleen Chisholm in her union position, O’Keefe asserts.

“Accordingly, the facts currently available provide reason to believe that you committed a felony by using your discretionary power for private and associational gain inconsistent with your duties as district attorney,” O’Keefe states.

O’Keefe said Milwaukee County is an appropriate forum for the investigation, but due to the “the obvious conflict of interest inherent” in Chisholm’s position as DA, O’Keefe request that Chisholm petition the Milwaukee County Circuit Court to appoint a special prosecutor.

Milwaukee County Circuit Court Chief Judge Jeffrey A. Kremers and Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen are copied on the letter.

The special prosecutor would have “all the powers of the district attorney” but would not be subject to Chisholm’s oversight, and will have authority to independently review the facts and law to determine whether prosecution is warranted,” O’Keefe wrote.

“I request that you take this action within two weeks. If you do not act on this request, I intend to seek alternative means to pursue justice,” the conservative concluded.