John Doe – the "Fighting Bob" tryst of the century

The widening John Doe investigation in Wisconsin erupts in an irony of time and politics. For the love of Wisconsin’s “Fighting Bob LaFollete” (1906-1924), the father of progressivism, the roots of his words and warnings regarding corporations and trusts one hundred years ago, are resounding in the state he served throughout his life. The investigation has spread to, a least, five Wisconsin counties. Subpenas have been issued to over a dozen conservative groups. John Doe promises to evolve into the “Gettysburg” of progressivism vs. corporate person hood as defined in the controversial Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court.

Legal armies are being assembled and strategies crafted and planned to engage in the battle of the century over big money vs. preservation of individual voting rights. The legal battle brewing in Wisconsin carries national implications as the over balance of power at the top is being investigated. The bulldozer of the conservative campaign money in the recall elections of Senators followed by the recall election of Scott Walker broke all records of any election in state history to the point where Walker spent $35 per vote.

Free Wisconsin July 28,2012
The June 5 Recall Election Plan

Then came the election of historic proportions with national implications for the political agendas of Republicans and Democrats in the November Presidential race, and with it came the money in truck loads bearing the insignia on door: “Citizens United”. The hype, and media buyout was “as advertized” and Walker began raising big money from big donors across the land until in the end, he would spend $35 per vote received.

Some major artery just south of the aorta had split and the money from conservative groups and donors poured into Wisconsin personhoodlike never before. Yet, in many ways, this was just an experiment. This was a first transfusion of money into a major statewide elections since the birth of a corporation as “a person”, and in some documented cases, laws were broken. It remains to be seen how intentional and far reaching the illegal actions of the host of conservative groups may have gone astray of the rule of law. But, we do know that mailers were sent out by Americans for Prosperity that appeared designed to disenfranchise voters, false voter ID information was advertized on County Clerk web sites, and electronic voting tallies from the Walker recall were given up before the 10 days required by state statute.

Now a full front investigation is afoot in the state and major champions of Citizen United and the “money is speech” argument are uniting in force and poised on a legal battleground. All this in the very State of Wisconsin where the strongest voice against corporate overreach echoes through the halls and porticoes of the state capitol from a hundred years ago – from the strong voice of Fighting Bob La Follette.

From a speech of Robert M. La Follette delivered at the annual banquet of the Periodical Publishers Association in Philadelphia on February 22, 1912

The Third Period – The Combinations of Corporations

The evil hour was come upon us. Daring, unscrupulous men plotted in violation of the common law, the criminal statutes and against the public right to become masters of that market and take what toll they pleased. And thus we entered upon the third of our business and commercial life – the period of combination of corporations under a single control in each line of business. It was not an evolution; it was a revolution.

From “A Personal Narrative of Political Experiences” Appendix p. 767

La Follette vs. James Bopp Jr.

If we are indeed met on a great battlefield of war testing weather our nation as conceived and dedicated can long endure, we are met in in face of an opposing general, James Bobb Jr., from the conservativeboppBob right who carries a string of victories and trail of burnt villages in his wake. Many on the far right who have been quick to remind us that our government is not a democracy but a republic, are now on the rampage to take the further step to use Citizens United as the final nail in the coffin to bury democracy in favor of a totalitarian oligarchy. The leader of the final tyranny is James Bopp Jr. who shows great favor for the word republic over democracy…

The New Price of American Politics
James Bennet Sep 19 2012, 8:56 PM ET – Atlantic
He believes, in fact, that there can be no such thing as an “outside” group in American democracy—­he believes that’s the whole point of the republic.

By Stephanie Mencimer Mother Jones Thu Jan. 21, 2010
The Man Who Took Down Campaign Finance Reform
Bopp, the longtime counsel to the anti-abortion group National Right to Life, has now almost singlehandedly obliterated many of the nation’s relatively modest restrictions on corporate election spending, including the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation. And he’s done it all in the name of the First Amendment. In 2007, Bopp persuaded the Supreme Court to eliminate limits on corporate funding of television ads in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, arguing that the rules were an unconstitutional infringement on free speech.

Bopp is out leading the charge with the argument that might be paraphrased, “How dare you investigate the wealthy job creators of this country?”, and that the subpenas and searches were unconstitutionally broad given they involve political speech.

As flimsy as the Bopp challenge may sound to the ear of progressives, the judges who dismissed a request to stop the investigation seem to be calling up reinforcements.

Doe judge seeks representation from Department of Justice

By Patrick Marley of the Journal Sentinel Nov. 26, 2013

Madison — The judge overseeing a secret investigation of recall campaign fundraising and spending has asked the state Department of Justice to represent him in a court challenge to the probe.

Reserve Judge Gregory Peterson said Tuesday he made the request through Director of State Courts John Voelker. Peterson said it had been indicated to him that the department would represent him and that other judges involved in the case are seeking representation as well.

The Fourth Period – The Failure of Democracy with Capitalism?

The battle and the test of strategies for defending Citizens United, “corporations are people”, and “money is speech” against the last remnants of a Democracy of majority rule, may well play out in the state of Robert La Follette, who warned of the dangers of corporations in combination over a hundred years ago.

Why aren’t people out in the streets?

That was the question posed several times by Henry A. Giroux when he was a guest of Bill Moyers last Sunday as progressives fear the plague threatening the political landscape painted by Citizens United and special interest control of politics. The final death throws of capitalism present a desperate need for new rules for economic development. Mr. Giroux speaks of an approaching revolution into a new paradigm of community and government.

The Ghost of Authoritarianism in the Age of the Shutdown
Henry A. Giroux | Tuesday, 15 October 2013 11:45 By Henry A Giroux, Truthout | Op-Ed

During the past few decades, it has become clear that those who wield corporate, political and financial power in the United States thrive on the misery of others.

Moyers is correct, but his argument can be extended. What Americans are witnessing is a politics that celebrates a form of domestic terrorism, a kind of soft militarism and a hyper-masculine posturing in which communities are organized around resentment, racism and symbolic violence. With the partial government shutdown and the looming debt ceiling crisis engineered by the extremists driving the Republican Party, the amount of human suffering, violence and hardships that many individuals and families are experiencing border on catastrophic and open up a whole new act in the theater of cruelty, state violence, human misery and the exercise of raw and savage power.

Entrepreneurial identities replace all modes of solidarity invested in democratic principles, and self-interested actors supplant the discourse of the public good. The production of capital, services and material goods “are at the heart of the human experience.”

Perhaps, the new paradigm for community will grow from the John Doe investigation brewing in Wisconsin. The speech of Fight Bob La Follette delivered on the steps of the Captiol in Washington D.C. August 11, 1924 – seem to hold as much relevance today as they did nearly one hundred years ago.


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