First Chris Christie, now Scott Walker – the future is not so bright for yet another 2016 GOP presidential hopeful after a revelation about questionable ethical conduct. Last month, New Jersey Governor Christie’s administration became embroiled in the now-infamous “Bridgegate” scandal. Now Wisconsin Governor Walker seems to be caught between not one, but two “John Doe” investigations.
A “document dump” of more than 27,000 emails and other evidence released this week by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals documents activities that resulted in the convictions of six former Walker aides, associates, and a political campaign donor on fifteen felonies and three misdemeanors. Reporters and researchers have scoured the documents for the last 48 hours, revealing some key findings of the probe, including:
- Milwaukee District Attorney Bruce Landgraf asked on November 1, 2010, the day before Scott Walker was elected governor, to expand his John Doe probe to then-Milwaukee County Executive Walker’s official staff upon discovery of a secret network of campaign-related email activity inside Walker’s official County Executive office during business hours. His investigation targeted four top Walker aides — Chief of Staff Tom Nardelli, Deputy Chief of Staff Kelly Rindfleisch, Communications Director Fran McLaughlin and scheduler Dorothy Moore. Prior to that, the probe had targeted illegal campaign donations to Friends of Scott Walker by railroad magnate William Garder, campaign blogging by Walker aide Darlene Wink, and $27,000 stolen from a veterans’ fund run by former Walker deputy chief of staff Tim Russell. – Wisconsin State Journal, Feb. 20, 2014
- An investigator testified that he believed Scott Walker knew about the secret wireless network and private laptop use in his Milwaukee County Executive office while he was running for governor. Walker sent an email to former Chief of Staff Tim Russell, convicted in the probe for theft of $27,000 from a veterans’ fund that Walker appointed him to, mentioning the activity, saying "We cannot afford another story like this one. No one can give them any reason to do another story. That means no laptops, no websites, no time away during the work day, etc."– Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Feb. 19, 2014
- A follow-up email from former Walker aide Kelly Rindfleisch, also convicted in the probe for performing campaign work on Milwaukee County work time, acknowledges that she disabled the secret network, responding “I took down the wireless, it’s in my bag for now.” – Wisconsin State Journal, Feb. 20, 2014
- Emails between Walker’s administrative director Cynthia Archer and Rindfleisch discuss communicating with the governor and Chief of Staff Thomas Nardelli using private email accounts, Archer directing Rindfleisch to check her private email account regularly “throughout the day.” – Slate, Feb. 20, 2014
A second John Doe criminal investigation currently is underway, and appears to focus on illegal campaign contributions and illegal coordination between Walker’s 2012 gubernatorial campaign and independent expenditure political group Club for Growth, Citizens for a Strong America, Americans For Prosperity, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, and the Republican Governor’s Association. So far, two separate lawsuits have been filed, with plaintiffs’ names kept secret, to try to halt the second John Doe probe. – PRWatch, Feb. 7, 2014
Whether the second John Doe probe, which is ongoing, actually ensnares Scott Walker himself remains to be seen. So far, the first probe, and yesterday’s document dump, already have caused national Republicans to circle the wagons and ask themselves whether either Chris Christie or Scott Walker are viable 2016 GOP presidential candidates. Stay tuned.