When it comes to ambitious Republican governors, gearing up for likely presidential campaigns, but burdened by scandals, we tend to think of a certain New Jersey official.
But as Rosalind Helderman reminds us this morning, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is “in the midst of dealing with the fallout of two criminal investigations,” one of which is of particular interest today.
That could begin as early as Wednesday with the release of more than 25,000 pages of e-mails from an ex-staffer that were gathered as part of the now-concluded investigation. The probe focused on Walker’s time as Milwaukee County executive before his 2010 election as governor and led to convictions of six former aides and allies.Even if Walker escapes the e-mail release unscathed, he faces an additional inquiry from state prosecutors, who are believed to be looking into whether his successful 2012 recall campaign illegally coordinated with independent conservative groups.
The Walker stories haven’t generated nearly as much attention as some other recent political controversies, in large part because Wisconsin’s secrecy laws have kept a tight lid on information about the investigations.
But Lane Florsheim recently summarized matters nicely: “Charles P. Pierce at Esquire has a good rundown of the lurking scandals: Aides from Walker’s first campaign went to jail for using his Milwaukee County Executive office to campaign for him for governor, another former aide was convicted of stealing money from a fund for families of U.S. soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Walker’s administration gave raises that skirted state limits after a series of phantom job transfers took place. Another corruption probe is ongoing.”
Well, when you put it that way, it seems troubling.
Helderman fleshed out the significance of today’s revelations, in particular.
The e-mails being released Wednesday come from the files of Kelly Rindfleisch, a former Walker deputy chief of staff who in 2012 pleaded guilty to a felony for performing political work for a Walker-backed lieutenant governor candidate during hours she was being paid by taxpayers to do county business. The e-mails are being unsealed as part of her appeal.Prosecutors said she sent 1,400 e-mails on county time related to political fundraising. More than 2,200 e-mails, they said, went to Walker campaign officials.Many were sent using a private e-mail address and an Internet router installed in the county executive office suite with the intention of shielding the work from public access, prosecutors said.Walker was copied on a handful of e-mails, released by prosecutors during Rindfleisch’s sentencing, that showed county workers and campaign aides jointly coordinating strategy.
There’s nothing to suggest Walker has ever been a target of the investigation, even though two of his former aides were convicted. His Democratic critics are nevertheless eager to see if the new materials implicate the governor to an extent beyond what’s previously been reported.
American Bridge, a progressive super PAC, has created a website that’s collecting and posting the newly released materials as they’re available.
Also note, while Walker is clearly eyeing a national campaign in the near future, he’s also facing a competitive re-election bid this year.