Judge Randa Dares the Supreme Court to Take His John Doe Case
Yesterday, his ally,
ultraconservative Federalist Society member and U.S. District Court Judge
Rudolph Randa totally halted the John Doe investigation into alleged
coordination between Walker’s campaign committee and sympathetic right-wing
Randa quickly did so
after prosecutors on Monday asked the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of
Appeals to prevent Randa from shutting it down, according to the Wisconsin
So Randa did it
No wonder why folks
call him “Rocket Ride Rudy.”
I’m not an attorney
but reading his decision halting the case I got the sense that we’re in
uncharted territory here.
Randa leans heavily
on recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have chipped away at campaign finance
laws meant to prevent corruption, or at least the appearance of it. These
divisive, unpopular Roberts court has dialed back the meaning of corruption so
that it only refers to explicit quid pro quo corruption.
allegedly independent group within one’s campaign—as Walker seemed to do with
longtime advisor R.J. Johnson, who was the Club for Growth’s spokesman—doesn’t
rise to that level, Randa said.
So he shut down the
investigation, saying to Walker and these groups, basically, go for it. If
you’ve got the same political aims, then it's free speech.
(I wonder how Randa
would have ruled if, for example, Milwaukee Mayor and Democratic candidate for
governor Tom Barrett had embedded a United Wisconsin chieftain in his campaign.
I doubt that Randa would have seen that as mere political free speech.)
I’ll let the legal
experts weigh in on the merits of his ruling. Randa’s been on shaky ground
before, most prominently in the Georgia Thompson case, which the appeals court
overturned based on “beyond thin” evidence presented by, don’t you know it,
Walker’s personal attorney, Steven Biskupic, then a federal prosecutor.
Thompson was freed from prison immediately. Randa’s still on the bench.
Randa seems to be
daring prosecutors to appeal yesterday’s decision, right up to the U.S. Supreme
Court. If the high court gets this case, it’s hard to imagine that given its
recent rulings it would have a problem with Walker’s (alleged) setup with the
Wisconsin Club for Growth.
Which leads us to another political question. Would success in the U.S. Supreme Court bolster Walker, making him a poster boy for anything-goes free speech advocates? Or would it scuttle his presidential ambitions? I mean, Walker’s national name recognition seems to be pretty low. If you aren’t an avid Fox News watcher, billionaire donor or Wisconsin resident, he just isn’t registering. If you were Walker, would you want to be introduced to the public as the governor whose criminal investigation got heard before the U.S. Supreme Court?