A key figure in the stalled John Doe investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign has compared subpoena targets to rape victims and accused the state’s election agency of corruption and domestic spying.
The remarks drew immediate condemnation from Walker’s campaign.
“Eric O’Keefe, who has no ties to the campaign, deserves nothing less than outright condemnation for his egregiously offensive remarks,” Walker spokeswoman Alleigh Marre said.
O’Keefe, a Spring Green resident and director of the Wisconsin Club for Growth, made the comments Thursday on conservative talker Vicki McKenna’s radio show. He declined a State Journal interview request Friday.
O’Keefe is the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against the John Doe prosecutors that was recently thrown out by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The investigation remains on hold as the Wisconsin Supreme Court considers whether to take up a judge’s decision to quash several subpoenas related to the case.
O’Keefe, who an Iowa County district attorney named as a subject of the investigation, said he had spoken with several people who a year ago experienced early morning home raids by sheriff’s deputies acting on the authority of a John Doe judge. According to prosecutors, O’Keefe was served a subpoena, but his home was not raided.
“I have read some about rape and I have talked about rape and I am saying this deliberately,” O’Keefe said. “The reactions that I got from the people I interviewed were similar to a rape victim.”
He said prosecutors “imposed a traumatic, unconstitutional abuse on people and told them you can’t talk to your colleagues, you can’t talk to your friends.”
A spokeswoman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke seized on the comments.
“This is the company that Scott Walker keeps,” spokeswoman Stephanie Wilson said. “It is disgusting, insulting and outrageous for such a close ally of Gov. Walker to compare the actions of sworn law enforcement officials investigating serious allegations of criminal wrongdoing to the most vile and heinous crime against women that there is.”
O’Keefe also called the Government Accountability Board, which has been involved in the investigation, and its director Kevin Kennedy “corrupt.”
GAB spokesman Reid Magney said “such comments do not merit a response.”
O’Keefe said prosecutors obtained his email records, phone records and bank statements through separate subpoenas.
“They have been spying on us extensively and probably have over a million documents from this extensive search,” O’Keefe said.
O’Keefe acknowledged the subpoena he received included a gag order, which if violated could result in a contempt of court ruling. Before filing the lawsuit, which has resulted in the release of hundreds of documents detailing the investigation, O’Keefe disclosed much of what was known about the John Doe to the Wall Street Journal.
“I have persistently ignored (the gag order) because I can read the Constitution and it’s an outrageous clamp down on my speech,” he said.
Prosecutors have stated in court documents that they suspect Walker and his campaign may have been at the center of a “criminal scheme” to raise millions in undisclosed campaign donations by coordinating with the Wisconsin Club for Growth. No one has been charged with a crime, and Walker has said he’s done nothing wrong.
Club for Growth says it engages in “issue advocacy” — educating the public about an issue — rather than “express advocacy” — telling voters to support or oppose a candidate. Courts have ruled that government can’t regulate issue advocacy in the same way as express advocacy.
Prosecutors argue issue advocacy becomes express advocacy when it is coordinated with a campaign, and provided several emails showing Walker and his aides talking about how fundraising for the campaign should be coordinated through Wisconsin Club for Growth. Prosecutors argue Walker’s campaign should have disclosed the contributions and adhered to campaign contribution limits, though a judge has said the campaign may have found a loophole in state law.
“We complied with Wisconsin’s unconstitutional campaign finance law and they still came after us,” O’Keefe said Thursday. “I’m proud of what we did. They are the ones hiding what they did. And they have been running a taxpayer-funded campaign against us for four years.”