Lawmaker: Wisconsin’s John Doe like Christie’s ‘Bridgegate’

Part 23 of 23 in the series Wisconsin’s Secret War

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. – A top Republican lawmaker likens the Democrat-led John Doe investigation into conservative groups to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate.”

“You can draw a comparison in what’s happening here in Wisconsin and what Chris Christie did in New Jersey, with his staff members bullying people who didn’t agree with the governor,” Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, told Wisconsin Reporter. “In this case, it’s liberals bullying conservatives.”

BULLYING BRIDGE:New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gestures during a news conference Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. Photo AP

Christie, a likely 2016 GOP presidential candidate, has found himself in political hot water in the wake of last year’s lane closures near the George Washington Bridge. The closures, which caused horrendous traffic jams for four days in the little town of Fort Lee, were apparently ordered as political payback after Fort Lee’s mayor, a Democrat, refused to support Christie’s re-election campaign.

The Republican governor has fired four key aides he called out as responsible for the scandal.

Nygren sees the same kind of stifling political activity in Wisconsin’s John Doe investigation, a probe the Wall Street Journal editorial board has dubbed the “Wisconsin Political Speech Raid” — only “in reverse.”

Last Friday, Judge Gregory A. Peterson, the presiding judge in the secret probe, quashed several subpoenas served on conservative organizations in the John Doe. Peterson said the subpoenas didn’t “show probable cause that the moving parties committed any violations of the campaign finance laws,” according to the sealed ruling, which was obtained by the Wall Street Journal.

The investigation, launched nearly two years ago by the Democrat-led Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office, has been digging for evidence of “illegal coordination” between Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and the conservative groups, which allegedly occurred during Wisconsin’s unprecedented recall elections, sources have told Wisconsin Reporter.

Nygren, who serves as co-chairman on the Legislature’s powerful Joint Finance Committee, said the judge’s ruling reinforces his view and that of his Republican colleagues about the partisan nature of the investigation.

“We were thinking this was a witch hunt from the beginning; the judge’s decision only underscores that,” he said.

Nygren, like many conservatives, has criticized the investigation for its apparent lack of focus on liberal groups that Nygren said appeared to have been coordinating with Democrat campaigns during Wisconsin’s unprecedented recall elections.

“What’s happening here is what happened in New Jersey in reverse,” Nygren said. “It is equally troubling, especially when you consider this is our political process. We are talking about stifling speech.”

Contact M.D. Kittle at

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