NEWS, SPORTS, COMMENTARY, POLITICS for Gloucester City and the Surrounding Areas of South Jersey and Philadelphia

Spring Cleaning Event: Get Rid of Your Unused & Expired Medicine

GUEST OPINION: Who was the reporter outside Cindy Archer’s house?

By M.D. Kittle |Wisconsin Watchdog Images-1

MADISON, Wis. – Of all of the frightening accounts of government abuses in Wisconsin’s political John Doe investigation, David French’s description in National Review of the early-morning raid on Cindy Archer’s home may be the most stunning.

But there are two nearly forgettable lines in French’s retelling of the raid that reveal volumes about the secret investigations aimed at bringing down Wisconsin’s conservative activist community.

Archer, French writes, “looked outside and saw a person who appeared to be a reporter. Someone had tipped him off.”
Supporters of the Democrat-launched political John Doe probes into conservatives have argued secrecy is key to its success, denouncing any leaks that undermine the prosecutors’ case. But Archer’s suspicion that a reporter was present was apparently right – and indicates that secrecy is a tactic rather than a principle: a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article published on the day of the raid, Sept. 14, 2011, indicates that a Journal Sentinel reporter arrived in time to see “about a dozen law enforcement officers, including FBI agents” raid Archer’s home.
At the same time,  Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and his assistants were digging up what they could on the Milwaukee County Executive’s office. Walker, a Republican, led the county office for several years before being elected Wisconsin’s governor in November 2010. The DA, a Democrat, used information gathered in that probe to launch his investigation into what became a multi-county investigation into 29 conservative groups and Walker’s campaign. Chisholm’s office worked alongside the state Government Accountability Board, John Doe special prosecutor Francis Schmitz and a very willing John Doe Judge appointed at the direction of Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson to go after the conservatives and their constitutionally protected donor lists.

And the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had a front-row seat when the “law enforcement action” went down.

“Around 9 a.m., a reporter saw four FBI agents – two of them wearing latex gloves – talking in Archer’s backyard before going into her house. Later, one removed a large box and put it in the trunk of an FBI car. They left about 10 a.m,” the Journal Sentinel story reported.

“The FBI also seized the hard drive from a computer that a neighbor had bought from Archer six to eight weeks ago at a garage sale.”

Archer, like several other subjects of the probe who have spoken to Wisconsin Watchdog and National Review, has never been charged with any wrongdoing.

“I’m not worried,” Archer told the Wisconsin State Journal following the raid. “I don’t even have a lawyer. I don’t need a lawyer. I did nothing inappropriate.”

But the Journal Sentinel’s story from 2011 remains a part of the public record.

“Sources have said the investigation has increasingly focused on the activities of Archer and Tom Nardelli, Walker’s former county chief of staff,” the newspaper reported.

Nardelli, who died last year, was never charged with any wrongdoing. In fact, it was Nardelli who, representing Walker, brought to Chisholm’s office a problem: a discrepancy in a Milwaukee County veterans fund. Walker’s concern that the fund had been ripped-off became the initial reason for the secret probe. But from that point, Chisholm’s prosecutors operated on a grander theory: that this opening providing them with an excuse to investigate relationships between Walker and Wisconsin’s conservatives.

Local and national media seized on the red meat of a possibleWalker-related “illegal scheme.” Selective leaks from the prosecutors drove the drumbeat of stories.

Daniel Bice, the Journal Sentinel’s investigative columnist who broke several stories in the first John Doe political probe, has vehementlydenied that his sources are inside the Milwaukee County DA’s office.

If I started outing my sources, I wouldn’t have very many sources, would I?” Bice said during an online chat with readers in January 2012. He was responding to this question: “Who is illegally leaking information to you from the secret John Doe probe?”

“I have said in other forums that I don’t know of anyone who broke the law by talking to me for my stories. That remains true.”

But Bice certainly sounded like a soothsayer when asked in the same chat whether there would be more arrests in the probe.

“Yes and soon. But, of course, ‘soon’ is a relative term when you’re talking about a 20-month investigation.”

Bice’s crystal ball – or perhaps his source information – was broken. There were no more arrests in the first secret John Doe investigation that spanned nearly three years.

In the  National Review piece, French lays out the myriad civil rights assaults on targets of the secret probes into dozens of conservative organizations, the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker, and his former aides and associates.

AP file photo

AP file photo

‘PLEASE DON’T SHOOT MY DOGS': National Review’s David French reports on the frightening raids in Wisconsin’s John Doe investigation.

In French’s account of the raid on the home of Archer – a top aide to Walker and architect of Act 10, the 2011 law that reformed Wisconsin’s public sector collective bargaining laws – you can feel the panicked heartbeat of fear.

Archer was “jolted awake by yelling, loud pounding at the door, and her dogs’ frantic barking,” French writes.

“She looked outside to see up to a dozen police, yelling to open the door. They were carrying a battering ram. She wasn’t dressed, but she started to run toward the door, her body in full view of the police. Some yelled at her to grab some clothes, others yelled for her to open the door.

French describes a startled woman grabbing her clothes and dressing in front of police as she opened the door.

“I begged and begged, ‘Please don’t shoot my dogs, please don’t shoot my dogs, just don’t shoot my dogs.’ I couldn’t get them to stop barking, and I couldn’t get them outside quick enough. I saw a gun and barking dogs. I was scared and knew this was a bad mix,” Archer told French.

Wisconsin Watchdog, in its continuing investigative series,“Wisconsin’s Secret War,” has chronicled many of the abuses of the subjects, who have asked to remain anonymous due to the probe’s gag order that comes with possible jail time for violators. But Archer’s account is the first time a John Doe subject of the raids has spoken out, simultaneously corroborating Wisconsin Watchdog’s accounts and contradicting the accounts of John Doe prosecutors who have tried to discount the violence of the investigation, even placing quotes around the word “raids” in the government’s court filings.

Part 193 of 193 in the series Wisconsin's Secret War