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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Party of Criminals

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This may seem like a naïve question coming from someone who lived through Watergate, but when did the Republican Party become the party of criminals?

It's hard to imagine more brazen criminality than Richard Nixon's administration running a burglary ring out of the White House. But even in those days there were still some decent, law-abiding Republicans in office.

Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, the father of right-wing politics, told Nixon to resign, and Attorney General Elliot Richardson and his deputy resigned rather than obey Nixon's order to fire a special prosecutor for subpoenaing damaging evidence.

Compare that to the organized Republican attack on Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and highly respected retired Appeals Court Judge Neal Nettesheim, who are conducting a John Doe investigation that has led to multiple felony charges against some of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's top aides when he was county executive.

The remarkable thing is these attacks are not aimed at those accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the families of killed or wounded war veterans, carrying out criminal activities through a secret email system set up in the county executive's office or even trying to lure a 17-year-old boy into a van for sex.

The attacks are aimed at the straight-arrow district attorney and judge for issuing criminal charges.

Not only that, one former Republican district attorney and losing candidate for state attorney general has even begun holding paid seminars advising Republican activists on how to undermine the John Doe investigation before it can lead to serious charges against Walker himself.

Paul Bucher is the former Waukesha County district attorney who lost to Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen in the 2006 Republican primary.

Prosecuting crimes appears to be the last thing on Bucher's mind these days. To Republicans paying $20 a pop, Bucher presents one of those motel conference room seminars that typically feature slick-talking con men promising to make you a millionaire overnight.

A Democratic operative surreptitiously videotaped Bucher's recent presentation and posted it on YouTube.

Bucher, now in private practice as a defense attorney, uses the age-old, bait-and-switch tactic of motel seminars to drum up legal business. You pay $20 to learn the secrets of sabotaging a John Doe investigation, but if you really want to pursue it, that's going to cost you a little more.

Bucher responded to a questioner asking about trying to catch an assistant district attorney saying something inappropriate on tape. Bucher reveals a fact every reporter knows: Undercover recordings can be legal in Wisconsin if one party consents—even if it's the party making the recording.

But Bucher warned: "Please, please, please, be very careful with recordings... Certain planted devices when you are not present is a felony. So please be careful with that. And even if you have one-party consent...it's extremely limited as to what you can do with it.

"So if you do record something on a one-party consent, that doesn't necessarily mean that you put it on a social network. That could get you in big trouble. Before you go down that road, you need to see a lawyer."

Golly, I wonder which lawyer that would be.

Disregarding Law and Order

Bucher also couldn't resist taking a swipe at Van Hollen, the Republican who defeated him for attorney general.

Van Hollen, for his own political protection as state Republicans supporting Walker have gone down, is staying as far away from the John Doe as possible. He even refused to let Justice Department agents assist in the Walker investigation, sending Chisholm instead to the FBI.

Bucher recently wrote a letter to Van Hollen asking him to take over the entire John Doe, claiming the investigation had "leaked like a sieve" and "blatantly abused the rights and reputations of individuals who have no way of defending themselves..."

Actually, there have been no leaks at all from Chisholm's investigation. The only information from the district attorney has come in public press conferences when charges were filed.

Van Hollen publicly responded to Bucher that he had no legal authority to intrude upon the John Doe. He's previously claimed a conflict of interest since he legally represents Walker.

Bucher told Republican activists they should report anything they find against the district attorney to Van Hollen anyway.

"Which may be a complete waste of your time," Bucher said. "But document it nonetheless."

"Not if he wants to get re-elected!" an audience member shouted.

Republicans used to be the party of law and order. Now they've become the party of criminals, attacking legal authorities for charging Republicans with theft, misuse of public funds and sex crimes.

One reason Walker may very well go down in the June 5 recall is there still may be some honest, law-abiding Republican voters who are offended and embarrassed by the criminal rabble that has taken over their party.