Nearly two months ago, as I was packing up for a trip to deer camp, I received a voice mail from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Jason Stein. In it, he inquired whether a search warrant had been executed at my house as a part of the John Doe proceedings.
 
At first, I was sure it was a prank call. But he soon followed up with an email, and then another.
 
November 20, 2013
Fr: Jason Stein <jstein@jrn.com>
To: Me
Subject: Search Warrant
 
Hi Brian, 
 
Hope all is well. Just left you a phone message. I've been told that a search warrant was recently executed at your home. Is there any truth to that? Feel free to give me a call on my cell 608-xxx-xxxx and I'm happy to explain what else I have heard. Thanks, J 
 
 
 
November 21, 2013
Fr: Jason Stein <jstein@jrn.com>
To: Me
Subject: Search Warrant
 
Brian, 
 
I'd still like to know whether it's true that a search warrant was executed on your home. Let's talk. -J
 
Jason Stein
 
 
 
How odd.
 
For what it's worth, no search warrant has been executed at my home, I've not been issued any subpoena, and I am not ensnared in this John Doe fishing expedition, at least not as far as I know. But maybe the liberal accomplices in the mainstream media are working so closely with the partisan prosecutors that they get tipped off months in advance.
 
 Honestly, even though I've done nothing wrong, I wasn't welcoming the execution of a search warrant at my home. I freely admit I did not relish the thought of explaining to my daughter why strangers would be in our house the same time we've been explaining to her how to trust the police but stay away from strangers. Nor did the prospect of the overall hassle excite me. 
 
As we know from the Wall Street Journal reports, at least three actual targets in the probe were subject to pre-dawn raids of their homes. As if they were terrorists or drug dealers, their homes were scoured while they and family members were detained during the searches.
 
The secret Doe cast its net so wide it reportedly included 29 separate conservative organizations. Now a reporter was suggesting that it might even extend to conservative media outlets, or at least to me? Even though the judge quashed several subpoenas last week, the probe is still ongoing and perhaps more could be issued.

Such a move would certainly be puzzling however--for many reasons. In my position at RightWisconsin/Journal Broadcast Group, clearly I work every day with sources and tips and confidential communications just like any other professional engaged in a journalistic endeavor. But we don't engage in campaign-related activity (regulated or otherwise). That has, however, not stopped liberals from taking to social media this weekend with veiled accusations that we somehow were in the crosshairs (maybe they've been hanging out with Stein or his "sources?")

I also remain a Senior Fellow at the MacIver Institute, where I help train their journalists and assist with their overall communications and research efforts. Yet nothing I do or have done for them would fall under the purview of any regulatory agency (other than the IRS--The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy is an independent, non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization).
 
Now, some liberal bloggers have speculated that the John Doe witch hunt being conducted by partisan prosecutors may have ensnared the MacIver Institute, because of the It's Working Wisconsin research and public education efforts, But that is just silly. That multi-media effort included a nine minute instructional video, a series of town halls and broadcast advertising highlighting a boatload of research we did regarding the need for and the immediate success of the Act 10 public employee labor reforms. The effort did not coincide with any election. No candidates for office were mentioned. 

It is frightening, but perhaps no longer inconceivable, to imagine that the witch hunt would extend to the protected free speech rights of either the MacIver Institute or Journal Broadcast Group, or frankly me as a regular citizen for that matter -- albeit a vocal conservative one.

Stein persisted. In fact he emailed a colleague to ask if he knew whether or not I was under investigation. Nice.
 
His most recent inquiry of me came just this week.
 
But I didn't respond to Stein. 
 
Just as citizens have the right to criticize their government, we also have the right to ignore reporters on fishing expeditions. Neither action is a sign of guilt.
 
Frankly, if my house had been searched – which it never was – Stein knew that I would be breaking the John Doe secrecy law if I were to confirm it. And to deny it was the equivalent of trying to answer the cliche loaded question: "Have you stopped beating your wife?"  I didn't want Stein to write the story "Conservative Denies Connection to Doe Probe," and have my picture splashed across the newspaper. It was the catch 22 that the John Doe and the media had created for conservatives across the state. 
 
It had been my understanding, prior to the Wisconsin John Doe probe of conservatives at least, that political commentary and reporting were not regulated by the government. Could I be wrong?
 
In the wake of the emails from Stein, one of three things is true here.

One, Jason Stein made it up and that no such source told him any such thing and he is merely trolling to to gather intel for a story. If this is true, well, that's up to his editors and the readers of the Journal Sentinel to render judgement.

Two, Jason Stein has a crappy source, who gave him false information about me. We know that the left and their media allies have used the John Doe to cast a cloud over conservative activists and clearly someone was spreading stories about me. Jason Stein was more than willing to track down gossip from untrustworthy sources. Again, if this is the case, it is up to his bosses and readers to make their own determinations.

Third, and it is the last scenario that is the most ominous: that indeed prosecutors had or are planning on getting a subpoena for the tools I use to do my job, even to go as far (as Stein declares) to execute a search warrant on my house. If this is the case, then someone associated with the prosecution illegally leaked that information to Stein and perhaps others. Lord knows the first Doe investigation leaked like a sieve and was all about a trial in the court of public opinion.

But, again, why would they come after RightWisconsin?
 
A simple Google search for the terms RightWisconsin and John Doe could provide your answer.
 
In contrast to the mainstream media, we have been skeptical of the John Doe witch hunts and have diligently reported on the abuses we found.
 
To be fair, as I wrote, there may not be an abuse here. While it is clear the Doe probe has been out of control, this instance could simply be a reporter just pursuing innuendo and rumor designed to smear a conservative critic of the John Doe. Why would he do this? Perhaps to create the chilling effect the professional left desires. 
 
But with secret procedures appointing secret prosecutors in a process so secret even retired Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske couldn't explain it, I guess anything is possible now.
 
I was headed to Deer Camp two months ago. Turns out it was already witch hunting season.
 
I have to apply for a deer permit every year. 
 
When does their license expire?
 
Contact the author  bfraley@jrn.com
 
 
 

Note, Right Wisconsin is published by Journal Broadcast Group, whose parent company Journal Communications is also the parent company of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.