When Cindy Archer heard yelling and pounding on her front door in Wisconsin, she thought at first it was someone trying to break in. She soon discovered it was the police. Her crime? Her political beliefs.
Archer wasn’t the only one. As documented in a riveting piece by David French in the National Review, the same story played out a number of times in Wisconsin. The common thread? All the people subjected to the paramilitary-style abuse were conservatives.
In Archer’s case, she had the grave misfortune of being one of the main forces behind Wisconsin’s Act 10, which changed public-employee unions’ collective-bargaining rules and cut public employee benefit growth.
Others, such as the Wisconsin Club for Growth, had similar profiles of conservative activism in a state that proudly styles itself as politically progressive.
And some made the apparently unforgivable mistake of backing Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who enraged state liberals by facing down the public employee unions that were destroying the state’s finances.
In most of the cases, the victims’ treatment was the same: rude, Gestapo tactics with orders barked angrily by Wisconsin police or state officers at people in their own homes, followed by the humiliating demand that they say nothing to anyone about the raid and warnings to not contact an attorney. The officers scooped up personal cellphones, computers and other personal items, and left without explanation.
“Yes, Wisconsin,” wrote French, “the cradle of the progressive movement and home of the ‘Wisconsin idea’ – the marriage of state governments and state universities to govern through technocratic reform – was giving birth to a new progressive idea, the use of law enforcement as a political instrument, as a weapon to undo election results, shame opponents and ruin lives.”
More troubling is the veil of secrecy that’s been pulled over these assaults, which violated the sanctity of people’s homes and privacy.
Under Wisconsin’s “John Doe” law, a prosecutor who gets a judge’s approval can launch a highly secretive investigation of possible wrongdoing – one in which the targets have few if any ordinary rights.
So much for the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure. And so much for the presumption of innocence.
The tactics used in the investigations read more like something East Germany’s Stasi would do than anything here in America.
What’s worse, these highly unusual tactics came from the office of one man: Democrat Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm, a longtime political foe of Walker whose wife was a steward for a teachers union.