By M.D. Kittle
MADISON, Wis. – Deborah Jordahl and her family felt like they woke up in another country in the predawn hours of Oct. 3, 2013.
That’s when law enforcement officials, directed by the prosecutors of Wisconsin’s infamous John Doe investigation, showed up with warrants and raided the homes of several Wisconsin conservatives – including the one in Jordahl’s middle-class Middleton neighborhood.
It certainly didn’t feel like America.
“It was surreal,” Jordahl recently told MacIver News Service on the Jay Weber Show, on NewsTalk 1130 WISN in Milwaukee.
“I woke up to some sounds in the yard. It was still dark out. The door bell rang. My husband and I were met by an armed deputy sheriff who told us she had a warrant to search the house. Wouldn’t say why,” recalled Jordahl, one of scores of right-of-center activists and other conservatives swept up in the campaign finance probe.
“They would not let me wake my children by myself. They followed me into their rooms. My children, at the time, were 15 and 17, and they woke up to an armed deputy standing over their bed,” Jordahl continued.
She found out months later that her son – 17 at the time of the raid – feared that his father had died, “because why else would there be people crawling around” the house at that hour of the morning. “I couldn’t really say anything. I had to keep them moving. I was terrified,” Jordahl said.
Law enforcement corralled this family of four into their living room. For the next few hours these John Doe raiders searched every closet, every drawer, in every room of the house. Then they went through the basement, then the garage, and the Jordahls’ vehicles. They hauled out boxes of paper and all kinds of electronic equipment.
Jordahl, a successful political consultant who, alongside her partner R.J. Johnson had advised Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign, was the target named on the search warrant. But that didn’t stop deputies and John Doe agents from rooting through her husband’s, daughter’s and son’s possessions – their computers, their cellphones, hard drives, more.
As the sun rose and the business day began, the John Doe agents searched and seized private possessions in front of passing school buses loaded with peers of the Jordahl children, in full view of neighbors heading to work.
“The most difficult thing for me was to sit there and see what was happening with my daughter,” Jordahl recalled, “when she realized the school buses were going by, that the kids at school were going to ask what was going on at our house, and the deputy who was guarding us said, ‘You can’t tell them anything or you’ll go to jail.'”
At this point in the interview, Jordahl paused, swallowed hard and sighed at the memory. “To sit there helpless and watch them do that to your child, I don’t think that will ever go away.”