By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — This week the Associated Press gave space to a former Wisconsin speech cop at the disgraced and defunct state Government Accountability Board (GAB) to moan about the Legislature’s investigations into the 2020 presidential election.
What the AP’s insufferably biased story failed to note is that Kevin Kennedy used a taxpayer-funded, “non-partisan” office to drive arguably the most notorious political investigation in Wisconsin history.
The story makes a number of challengeable suppositions, not the least of which is the statement that Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe is “well-regarded.” By whom? Wolfe directs an agency that has repeatedly broken or manipulated election law, according to a legislative audit and volumes of investigative documents to date. There are many voters in Wisconsin who find the WEC administrator much less than “well-regarded.”
It opens by asserting Wisconsin Republicans “are working to discredit” the elections commission they created. It’s clear to anyone paying attention that WEC hasn’t needed any outside help in discrediting itself. The agency’s clown car commissioners and government agents have got that covered.
And AP turns to Kennedy as a voice of election ethics. This is the same guy who, at the helm of the GAB, led the unconstitutional John Doe II investigation into dozens of conservative organizations. Kennedy and his staff worked alongside Democrat Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm in the politically driven probe to take down then Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican. Kennedy and crew signed off on predawn, armed raids on the homes of conservatives and conducted secret spying operations that illegally collected millions of documents on the left’s political enemies.
In 2015, the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s majority opinion found the special prosecutor, a GAB contracted employee, committed a “perfect storm of wrongs” against innocent people on the pretext of campaign finance violations.
On the campaign finance front, Kennedy and his team lost a major lawsuit in 2014. A federal court declared the patchwork of statutes, and rules and regulations concocted by the GAB, were “labyrinthian and difficult to decipher” for anyone but the most expert campaign finance attorney. GAB used this maze of rules to come up with its bogus and unconstitutional theory about campaign coordination.
The John Doe investigation was so egregious that the Republican-controlled Legislature moved to disband the GAB in 2016. Kennedy, a state bureaucrat for more than 30 years, scurried away knowing that the state Senate would never confirm his nomination to lead any part of what became the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
Kennedy remains unrepentant and bitter, getting help to whitewash his reputation from the same “journalism” outlet that helped him attack the reputations of private citizens.
A year and.a half after the Supreme Court ruling shutting down the investigation, Kennedy appears to have broken the law in showing John Doe documents to a gathering of speech regulators. Doing so could have landed him in jail for six months and hefty fines, under Wisconsin’s John Doe law, the same threats John Doe investigators made to the people they harassed and intimidated for years. In his presentation before the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL) in New Orleans, Kennedy attacked Walker and the former governor’s conservative allies again.
“Just one of the comparisons I would make, it might be unfair to some folks, but in big cities we have poor people, very unfortunate souls that we run across down in the French Quarter, you know, begging for food, sleeping in the street. What these documents show is the same kind of behavior from public officials, begging for money and support, acting the same way,” he said.
AP gave Kennedy another chance to vent his spleen.
“This is really just the politics of fear and vengeance,” the old bureaucrat said of the Republican lawmakers investigating the Wisconsin Elections Commission and local elections officials following concerning revelations from the presidential election. “This is not about ideas. … They have effigies they want to burn and that’s it.”
The politics of fear and vengeance is what Kennedy, Chisholm and their henchmen practiced in the star chamber that was the John Doe investigation. Wolfe worked for Kennedy at the old GAB. They are cut from the same bureaucratic cloth, believing laws they don’t like can be changed without the benefit of the law-making Legislature.
Let’s hope Wolfe joins her mentor in election regulation retirement soon.