Although I swore off writing this weekly email for a few weeks so I could take a much-needed vacation after the Minocqua tourism season, something dark happened to me on Friday that I have to write about.
My attorney told me that Matt Fernholz, the lawyer representing the Lakeland Times in their defamation lawsuit against me, was trying to “compel” me in court to answer some ridiculous questions, and in order for me to avoid being tossed in jail by a backwoods judge for “contempt of court,” I needed to respond.
Mind you I’m paraphrasing that conversation, and may have added the word “backwoods” to make the story a bit more entertaining, because I need to protect my attorney/client privilege.
Here are the three questions I have to deal with:
- What are the names of my Super PAC donors?
- What are the email addresses of all the people (you folks) that I write to every week?
- Have I ever spoken about this defamation lawsuit with a member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court?
Think about those three questions for a minute while I remind you that this defamation lawsuit was filed almost three years ago as a result of a Facebook post I wrote that called Gregg Walker, the publisher of my local newspaper (the Lakeland Times), a “crook” and a “misogynist” for publicly berating our female county health official while trying to keep us all safe from Covid.
After using a legal option to try to find a less conservative judge than the one assigned to us in Oneida County, we rolled the dice and it didn’t go so well. We were instead assigned a judge from Forest County, the smallest and most Republican County in the entire state of Wisconsin.
This judge decided to NOT dismiss this case out-of-hand, ruling that Gregg Walker was NOT a pulblic figure, and we had to let a jury decide the outcome. This issue of “public figure” means something because the bar for public figures to win defamation lawsuits is MUCH HIGHER than the average “Joe," and Walker would certainly lose this case if he was deemed a public figure.
That judge's decision was ridiculous given that Gregg Walker owns the largest and basically the only “real” newspaper in this entire region of Northern Wisconsin. Other than the weatherman for the local NBC affiliate, WJFW in Rhinelander, there probably isn’t any other person more “public” than Gregg Walker. This guy, through his henchman and self-proclaimed “investigative reporter” Richard Moore, can and has maligned hundreds of people over the last 20 years through his bi-weekly right-wing fish-wrapper.
That awful decision almost three years ago set in motion what I can only describe as a state-wide Republican-orchestrated fishing expedition to try to hurt my reputation and drain my company of resources, so I would keep my mouth shut and stop trying to make Norther Wisconsin more progressive.
I’ve written recently out how, while being deposed for the first time, I was forced to reveal the identity of the mother and child I had out of wedlock almost 20 years ago. And since the plaintiff was the Lakeland Times, my “confession” was revealed on a zoom call to Heather Holmes, the General Manager of the newspaper.
Think about that. This rogue right-wing newspaper, which writes hit pieces about me and my company on a regular basis, was allowed to sit in on a deposition in which I was forced to reveal deeply personal issues about my past--issues that could be used for character assassination by that very same newspaper down the road.
Now that I’ve reminded you what this absolutely frivolous lawsuit is about, and how nefarious it is, I’m sure you’re equally puzzled as to how these three questions I was told to answer under oath are at all relevant to a defamation lawsuit.
Well they aren’t, and that is the reason I said something to the effect of “go @#$! yourself” to Attorney Fernholz while he deposed me for the second time in a Madison law office a few months ago.
Well Matt apparently didn’t “go #$%! himself on his way back to Waukesha, the center of Wisconsin’s MAGA movement. Instead, he filed a motion with the judge to compel me to answer these questions which have absolutely nothing to do with defamation and everything to do with a political hit job.
Before I go into the most nefarious aspect of this story that has everything to do with Robin Vos allegedly attempting to undermine the Wisconsin justice system with the help of a Republican-backed rural judge to find some dirt to impeach Janet Protasiewicz before he loses his gerrymandered super-majority, let me set the record straight on a few of these questions.
Although it “SHOULD BE ILLEGAL” for Fernholz to ask me these questions because they have NOTHING TO DO with my defamation lawsuit, I signed an affidavit last Friday swearing under oath that I’ve never spoken with any Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices about this lawsuit.
Similarly, my Super PAC files a detailed report every 6 months with the Federal Election Commission listing our donors and the amounts they’ve contributed, so this information is all public knowledge.
After rushing to find a notary public in Minocqua last Friday afternoon to sign this affidavit, I happened to click on this article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that talked about how Robin Vos assembled a secret panel of judges to discuss ways to impeach Justice Janet Protasiewicz before she could vote on a gerrymandering case that could finally give us “Fair Maps” and diminish the stranglehold he has on our state.
While reading the first few sentences, I spotted something very alarming. Let’s see if you do too:
“Madison--An attorney for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos argued Friday that there is no "secret panel" advising the Rochester Republican on the potential impeachment of state Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz, as a liberal watchdog group argued any such discussions should be made public. Vos attorney Matthew Fernholz characterized the situation as a legislator speaking with people who have expertise in a particular subject, similar to what might happen in the drafting of legislation.”
Yep, you guessed it. I had NO IDEA that the very same lawyer representing Gregg Walker and the Lakeland times, Matt Fernholz, is also representing Robin Vos in matters relating to Vos’ democracy-destroying attempts to impeach Justice Protasiewicz.
At that moment, I started making a few pretty strong connections. Is it possible that Robin Vos directed Matt Fernholz to look for dirt on Janet Protasiewicz in a rural defamation lawsuit against me, a guy who raised money through his Super PAC to help Janet get elected?
Is it possible that Robin Vos leaned on a backwoods Forest County judge, who most assuredly leaned on the Republican Party to get elected, to NOT DISMISS THIS CASE almost three years ago because he could use this case to continuously depose, under oath, a guy that has raised and spent a LOT OF MONEY to try to save Wisconsin’s democracy from the likes of mini-despots like Robin Vos?
My lawyers don’t want me to write this article because they don’t want me to publicly berate the judge that’s going to decide my defamation case, and they don’t want to me write this article because it opens me up to yet another defamation lawsuit by none other than Matt Fernholz, a lawyer whose parents seemingly loved him so little that he chose the “dark side” and fell into the arms of Emperor Vos and now does his bidding to further undermine democracy from Wisconsin's "Death star" (Waukesha).
Well there’s one thing that separates me from my lawyers. Their job is to save my skin, and my self-appointed job is to exorcise the corrupt demons that have, until very recently, made Wisconsin the state where democracy goes to die.
My pen is my sword, and I’ll be damned if I can’t expose the connections between the state’s most powerful Republican, his efforts to retain power by illegally impeaching a Supreme Court Justice that won the popular vote in a landslide, a backwoods Republican judge whose recent rulings in a defamation case raise questions about his legal education and/or political motivations, and finally, a silver-spoon-fed, know-nothing MAGA bully that inherited a local newspaper from his rich father and has turned it into a Trump propaganda machine.
Folks, these allegations, if true, are a prime example of EVERYTHING WRONG with Wisconsin politics. We have a man and a party that has undermined democracy in order to gain ultimate power over our state, and will stop at nothing to retain that power--going so far as to corrupt our local justice system and potentially even corrupt local judges to implode our fairly-elected State Supreme Court before they can finally put an end to the Republican corruption that got us here in the first place.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for being as incensed as I am about all of this.
Together, we MUST SHINE A LIGHT on these corrupt Republican termites before they ingest any more of our democracy, one beer at a time.
Owner, Minocqua Brewing Company
Founder, Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC