Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

WI Gov. Scott Walker in Trouble Again as 28,000 e-mails Released in “John Doe” Probe

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Folks, I have said this time and time again: Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) has a lot of explaining to do.

Why?

Well, last night 28,000 e-mails were released due to an Open Records request by several state newspapers due to one of the latest “John Doe” probes against Gov. Walker. (There currently are at least two and possibly three “John Doe” probes going on, but this one deals with former staffers convicted of electioneering on government time — basically, being paid to perform other duties, or doing election business on state time — a felony under Wisconsin law.) This specific “John Doe” probe was about Walker staffers who’d set up an illegal campaign network only steps from Walker’s own desk when he was still campaigning for the job of Governor and was serving as Milwaukee County Executive.

While my hometown newspaper the Racine Journal-Times buried this story for whatever reason, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and the Wisconsin State Journal — Wisconsin’s two biggest newspapers — came out strongly against what has since been found in the massive e-mail release.

The Journal-Sentinel was blunt in its assessment:

Daily calls. Walker was hands-on. In April 2010, Nardelli sent an email to top aides saying Walker wanted 8 a.m. conference calls between campaign and key county staff “to review events of the day or of a previous or future day, so we can better coordinate sound, timely responses, so we all know what the others are doing.”

Cover blown, no more laptops. In addition to running a secret email system inside the Milwaukee County Courthouse, Walker’s aides used laptops to perform campaign work.

After prosecutors seized a computer of Walker aide Darlene Wink, who spent a good chunk of her time on the county dime posting positive comments about Walker online, Walker sent an email and ordered his aides, “no laptops, no websites, no time away during the work day, etc.”

Note that this last point is a particularly big deal as Scott Walker has insisted throughout that he knew nothing about the fact his staffers were doing campaign work while being paid by the city and county of Milwaukee — in short, committing felonies.

But if Walker truly knew nothing, why did he say “no laptops?”

And if he didn’t know anything, yet was a micro-manager otherwise, how is this remotely credible?

As Dee J. Hall of the Wisconsin State Journal put it, Walker “must have known” about the “private e-mail, laptop system.”

Mind you, neither of these reports go anywhere near as far as reporter Ruth Coniff of The Progressive, who notes that Walker’s scandal is far worse than New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate”:

But Bridgegate is minor compared to the “John Doe” investigations that have dogged Walker for the last four years, landing one of his closest aides and longtime political advisers in prison.

…Six Walker staffers and associates racked up 15 felony convictions and three misdemeanors in the first John Doe investigation, begun in May 2010 — a secret probe into illegal campaign work on taxpayer time while Walker was county executive of Milwaukee.

Walker started a criminal defense fund — an unprecedented move for a Wisconsin governor — in response to the first John Doe. In total, he paid more than $650,000 for lawyers representing himself and his campaign committee, according to Jason Stein of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The first John Doe investigation ended on March 1, 2013 with no charges against the governor.

A second John Doe probe, begun in 2012, focuses specifically on illegal coordination between rightwing groups and the governor’s campaign during the recall election, according to Dan Bice of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

I posted all of this to give those who don’t live in Wisconsin some idea of what we’ve been living through here in the state. We’ve never had a Governor do anything remotely like what Scott Walker has been accused of doing.

And when Walker got through the first “John Doe” probe without being charged, Republican radio commentators (including Charlie Sykes of WTMJ-AM 620, perhaps the most widely-listened to conservative radio host in the state) called this a “Democratic witch hunt” and said Walker had been “vindicated.”

So the release of these 28,000 e-mails has been a stunner — at least to the Republicans who have to discuss it.

Note that most of the sitting Republicans in both the statehouse and in Washington, DC, have been ominously silent. Two of them, U.S. Representative Paul Ryan of Janesville and U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, are particularly close friends of Walker and were the fastest to say Walker was vindicated last year when the first “John Doe” probe ended without the Governor getting charged.

As state Sen. John Erpenbach (D-Madison) said on Ed Schultz’s show on MSNBC this afternoon, “This probe is far from over.” The Progressive has had a number of updates today, including this one about a chief investigator insisting that Walker used the illegal communications network (written by reporter Matthew Rothschild), and this one written by the staff of The Progressive that reports one of the now-convicted felons who used to work for Scott Walker, Kelly Reindfleisch, knew what she was doing was wrong.

This evidence is so damning, the Journal-Sentinel — a paper that endorsed Scott Walker twice (once in the 2010 election, and again in the 2012 recall) — has written an editorial calling for Walker to give the state of Wisconsin some answers. Now.

As their editorial says:

Gov. Scott Walker needs to talk. He should hold a news conference to explain how much he knew about a secret email system as Milwaukee County executive. And he needs to let reporters ask as many questions as they want.

Why wouldn’t the governor want to clear up questions raised by the release Wednesday of 27,000 pages of emails related to a John Doe investigation into links between his county government staff and his gubernatorial campaign staff in 2010? State law bars public employees from working for political parties and campaigns while being paid by taxpayers to provide government services.

While I don’t often agree with the Journal-Sentinel about Wisconsin state politics, I am in full agreement here.

Scott Walker must answer these questions, fully and openly. And he’d best tell the truth.

Any other action does not befit the sitting Governor of Wisconsin.

———-

** One, final thought: thus far, Democratic candidate for Governor Mary Burke has yet to say anything about this latest scandal. This seems, at best, nonsensical on her part. (Where is Sen. Kathleen Vinehout when we need her?)

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Written by Barb Caffrey

February 20, 2014 at 6:22 pm

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