Columns

Government by Intimidation

By: George Will | Posted: May 12, 2014 3:55 AM
George Will

WASHINGTON -- U.S. District Judge Rudolph T. Randa, revolted by the police-state arrogance of some elected prosecutors, has stopped a partisan abuse of law enforcement that was masquerading as political hygiene. Last Tuesday, Randa halted the corruption being committed by persons pretending to administer campaign regulations -- regulations ostensibly enacted to prevent corruption or the appearance thereof. The prosecutors' cynical manipulation of Wisconsin's campaign laws is more than the mere appearance of corruption.

Eric O'Keefe's refusal to be intimidated by lawless law enforcement officials produced Randa's remarkably emphatic ruling against an especially egregious example of Democrats using government power to suppress conservatives' political speech.

Wisconsin's sordid episode began, appropriately, with a sound of tyranny -- fists pounding on the doors of private citizens in pre-dawn raids. While sheriff's deputies used floodlights to illuminate the citizens' homes, armed raiders seized documents, computers, cellphones and other devices.

As a director of Wisconsin Club for Growth, which advocates limited government, O'Keefe had participated in his state's 2012 debate surrounding attempts by Democrats and state and national government-employee unions to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker and some state senators. The recalls were intended as punishment for legislation limiting the unions' collective bargaining rights.

Walker prevailed. The Democratic prosecutors, however, seeking to cripple his 2014 re-election campaign and to damage him as a potential 2016 presidential aspirant, have resorted to a sinister Wisconsin process called a "John Doe investigation." It has focused on the activities of O'Keefe and 28 other conservative individuals or organizations.

In such investigations, prosecutors can promiscuously issue subpoenas and conduct searches. The identities of the targets are kept secret, and the targets are silenced by gag orders, thereby preventing public discussion of the process. Thus John Doe investigations are effective government instruments of disruption and intimidation.

Randa correctly concluded that the John Doe investigation had no reasonable expectation of obtaining a conviction. But its aim, which had been achieved until Randa's ruling, was utterly unrelated to law. It was abetted by selective leaks by the prosecutors and by subpoenas sent to conservative donors and organizations nationwide. The purpose of all this was to suppress conservative political advocacy by consuming the time and other resources of conservative leaders, and by making people wary of collaborating with those targeted by a secretive criminal investigation.

O'Keefe and the other harassed conservatives had engaged only in issue advocacy, not express advocacy. That is, they had not urged the election of specific candidates. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that government regulation of political speech is permissible only to prevent quid pro quo corruption -- money purchasing political favors -- resulting from express advocacy. Hence there is no justification for the prosecutors' punitive investigation of O'Keefe's and others' issue advocacy. As Randa said, this has no "taint of quid pro quo corruption" and thus "is not subject to regulation."

The Democratic prosecutors must know this. Again, they ignore it because their aim is mayhem, not law enforcement. Their activity is entirely about suffocating conservative activity. Because the prosecutors know Wisconsin law, they are patently disingenuous in arguing that O'Keefe and others illegally "coordinated" their advocacy with Walker and other candidates or campaigns. Randa said "the record seems to validate" O'Keefe's and the others' denial of coordination.

Besides, and even more importantly, Randa said his court "need not make that type of factual finding." Wisconsin law forbids coordination between third-party groups, such as O'Keefe's, and candidates only for express advocacy, and Randa said "it is undisputed" that O'Keefe and his group engaged only in issue advocacy. The prosecutors indifference to this is their corruption.

Liberals inveighing against "dark money" in politics mean money contributed anonymously to finance political advocacy. Donors' anonymity thwarts liberals' efforts to injure the livelihoods of identifiable conservatives by punishing them for their political participation and thereby deterring others from participating.
O'Keefe's persecution illustrates the problem his lawyer David Rivkin calls "dark power" -- government power wielded secretively for vengeance and intimidation. Judge Randa quoted the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision: The First Amendment is "premised on mistrust of governmental power."

And he noted that "the danger always exists that the high purpose of campaign regulation and its enforcement may conceal self-interest."

Randa is insufficiently mistrustful. Campaign regulation, although invariably swathed in lofty rhetoric, is designed to disguise regulation's low purpose, which is to handicap political rivals. If Wisconsin is serious about eliminating political corruption, it can begin by eliminating corrupt prosecutors and processes, and the speech regulations that encourage both.



George Will's email address is georgewill@washpost.com.


(c) 2014, Washington Post Writers Group


Tags: News, Columns

Comments (2)

who's liberal and who's not?
11:09AM MAY 13TH 2014
Conservative Destroys Fox News’ Juan Williams and Unmasks the Common Core -

Juan Williams is a liberal. He may work for Fox News (and be hated by other liberals because of it) but he is a down the line, mainstream liberal. Williams, like most liberals in the media, has been stumping for the Common Core since its inception and is still a fan of the massive government takeover, even as we see it failing around the country. Recently on Fox News he had the misfortune of running into the buzz saw that is the brilliant George Will – and Will set him straight on the Common Core.

So, if Juan Williams is a liberal and pushing Common Core, does this mean that Jeb Bush is a liberal in disguise? After all he is credited with the creation of Common core using the Republican governor's Assn as the catalyst!

Listen closely to Will’s argument because it is damning… and it is 100% accurate.

Juan Williams: And, I don’t think it’s out of place for our governors, for our school leaders, local school leaders, to say, ‘Here are the common standards that we want them to achieve.

The military’s on board, the Chamber of Commerce is on board, even Condoleezza Rice and the Council of Foreign Affairs are on board.
George Will: They’re all wrong, and here’s why.

The advocates of the Common Core say, “If you like local control over your schools, you can keep it. Period. If you like your local curriculum, you can keep it. Period.” And people don’t believe them, for very good reasons.
This is a thin end of an enormous wedge of federal power that will be wielded for the constant progressive purpose of concentrating power in Washington, so that it can impose continental solutions to problems nationwide.
You (common core supporters) say it’s voluntary. It has been driven by the (federal government’s) use of bribes and coercion in the form of waivers from No Child Left Behind or Race to the Top money – to buy the compliance of these 45 states, two of which – Indiana, and I believe, Oklahoma – have already backed out, and they will not be the last.
Watch the verb align in this argument. They’re going to align the SAT and the ACT tests with the curriculum. They’re going to align the textbooks with the tests. And sooner or later, you inevitably have a national curriculum that disregards the creativity of federalism.
What are the chances that we’re going to have five or six creative governors experimenting with different curricula, or one creative, constant, permanent Washington bureaucracy overlooking our education?
We’ve had 50 years now of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – 50 years of federal involvement that has coincided with stagnation in test scores across the country.

That’s exactly the point. As innocuous as the Common Core may look to some... As beneficial as the standardizing of national curricula may seem to some…
The endgame of Common Core is a Federal takeover of the entire education system across the country. It is simply more consolidating of power. The Common Core is to education what Obamacare is to healthcare.
It’s all about centralizing power in Washington, D.C.
Frank
8:36AM MAY 13TH 2014
Believe George Will? . . . . . try this latest one on for size:

“The whole point of global warming is it's a rationalization for progressives to do what progressives want to do, which is concentrate more and more power in Washington, more and more Washington power in the executive branch, more and more executive branch power in independent czars and agencies, to micromanage the lives of the American people. Our shower heads, our toilets, our bathtubs, our garden hoses -- everything becomes involved in the exigencies of rescuing the planet.”

Yes, yes, 40+ years of scientific research by the world's scientists, the increasing shelving of the Antarctic, the absence of North Pole ice, the poleward migration of multiple species and diseases, etc., etc., is all happening so Democrats can concentrate their political power in America . . . . George Will's continued tinfoil hat delusional conspiracy theories . . . . .

Pathetic . . . .

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