Report: No district attorney will investigate District Attorney John Chisholm

Part 139 of 139 in the series Wisconsin’s Secret War

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. — Of the 48 Wisconsin district attorneys asked to investigate allegations that Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm abused his power in launching a secret investigation into conservatives, not one is available to take on the job, according to a new report by Dodge County District Attorney Kurt F. Klomberg.

Klomberg’s report Wednesday came in response to a request that the prosecutor investigate Chisholm following a former Milwaukee County special prosecutor’s claim that Chisholm’s investigation was part of a personal vendetta against Gov. Scott Walker and his supporters.

“How is it possible that John Chisholm has the manpower to carry out a years-long abusive investigation targeting his political opponents, but no other law enforcement agency in the state has the capacity to investigate Chisholm?” asked Chris Kliesmet, president of Milwaukee-based Citizens for Responsible Government, the group that asked Klomberg to investigate.

Kliesmet’s statements were included in a media release Thursday.

“This is a nation of laws, and John Chisholm should not be above the law,” Kliesmet said.

STICKING TOGETHER: Not one Wisconsin district attorney expressed any interest in investigating allegations that Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm abused his power through a John Doe investigation into conservatives. According to a survey by a fellow DA, most of the prosecutors said they did not have the time or resources, and six reported a conflict of interest.

In refusing to investigate Chisholm, Klomberg said he surveyed 48 of Wisconsin’s 71 district attorneys to investigate Chisholm. His survey found 42 DAs cited “lack of resources,” and the remainder, including Klomberg himself, noted various conflicts of interest.

Klomberg, a Republican, is one of five DAs involved in the multi-county John Doe investigation into 29 conservative organizations and Walker’s campaign. He signed off on the appointment of a special prosecutor in the court-administered dragnet. This latest chapter in the four-year secret probe into Walker’s former aides and fellow conservatives was launched by Chisholm, a Democrat.

Klomberg states in his response letter to Kliesmet that he has requested a circuit court judge be assigned to consider Kliesmet’s request, “open a John Doe if appropriate,” and potentially “appoint a special prosecutor.”

“I am satisfied that District Attorney Klomberg took this case seriously and thank him for his forthrightness and diligence,” Kliesmet said in the release. “Yet I am deeply troubled by his finding that Wisconsin’s law enforcers are unwilling to investigate their own. There will be no justice unless and until John Chisholm faces the same scrutiny as his John Doe targets.”

Citizens for Responsible Government recently won a huge victory in federal court, when U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa issued a preliminary injunction, ordering Chisholm and the state Government Accountability Board from interfering with the conservative nonprofit from coordinating with like-minded candidates for an online information campaign.

CRG had asked for guidance from Randa before launching its website because it did not want to be subjected to the kind of politically charged John Doe investigations that Walker’s campaign and fellow conservative advocacy groups have endured during the past four years.

The reluctance of Wisconsin’s district attorneys to touch an investigation into Chisholm’s office and the State Supreme Court’s continued failure to take up review of the probe would seem to underscore assertions in the federal civil-rights lawsuit of one of the conservative targets.

In February, Eric O’Keefe and the Wisconsin Club for Growth he directs, sued Chisholm, two of his assistant DAs, John Doe special prosecutor Francis Schmitz and GAB-contracted investigator Dean Nickel, accusing them of volating the conservatives’ First Amendment rights.

O’Keefe last month wrote directly to Chisholm, asking the DA to turn over his request to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court.

“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 stated in his letter to Chisholm.

No word on where O’Keefe’s request stands.