A measure by politicians to protect politicians gets a public hearing at the Capitol this week. That’s how the bill, which would rewrite provisions of the state’s John Doe laws as they apply to politicians, is characterized by Jay Heck with Common Cause in Wisconsin.
“Partisan Republicans in the legislature have taken it upon themselves to restrict the scope of John Doe investigations in Wisconsin,” Heck said. “What this bill is trying to do is wall off politicians from the same kind of investigation that normal citizens would receive for other crimes.”
The legislation from state Senator Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) would limit the use of often secret John Doe investigations to violent and drug crimes, likely ending their use to root out political corruption. Assembly author, Representative Dave Craig (R-Big Bend) argued that the point of John Doe proceedings is to compel testimony, which he claimed is needed more for cases like drug rings or racketeering.
Heck explained that the John Doe process was a critical piece of investigations into wrongdoing by state legislative leaders in the 2001-2002 Capitol caucus scandal, which resulted in numerous criminal charges. More recently, John Doe proceedings were part of wide-reaching investigations targeting Governor Scott Walker’s campaign when he was Milwaukee County Executive.
“A John Doe investigation will usually start someplace, and then in the course of the investigation will uncover other details leading to other crimes,” said Heck. He said the bill would restrict that, as well as making it much more difficult for John Doe probes to even be initiated. The bill (SB 43) is up in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.