That law is not generally used for alleged libels related to political matters, but is that about to change? Is DA Chisholm is trying to signal that he may begin using Wisconsin’s own criminal libel law against political figures — or commentators or journalists — who he claims are lying about him (or other political figures)? Is he just venting, and not intending for his speech to have any chilling effect? Is he simply speaking about Iowa law, with no intention of suggesting that he might use Wisconsin law to prosecute people in such situations? If you were a Wisconsin critic of DA Chisholm or his allies, whether you are in Gov. Walker’s camp or not, how would you perceive this sort of statement?
I think there are credible arguments for the use of carefully crafted criminal libel law in some situations that involve purely private matters, though there are also credible arguments against it. But the use of criminal libel law in political disputes strikes me as much more troubling: much more likely both to stifle political debate (including true statements and expressions of opinion), and much more likely to be influence by the defendants’ (and the prosecutor’s) political positions.
UPDATE: Here’s DA Chisholm’s full statement.