Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker hoped yesterday's revelations would quietly fade away. Given the materials, that now appears unlikely.
By Steve Benen
Unfortunately for the governor, the revelations were rather harmful and cast his team in an even more negative light.
Thousands of documents unsealed Wednesday link Gov. Scott Walker to a secret email system used in his office that would avoid public scrutiny when he was Milwaukee County executive.
We already knew that Walker, as a gubernatorial candidate four years ago, ran a political operation accused of blurring -- if not, completely ignoring -- the line between official public duties and partisan campaign work. This including the installation of a secret wireless router in the team's office so the operation could exchange shielded messages to one another. A previous investigation led to convictions for six former Walker aides and allies, "including criminal convictions of two aides for performing political business on county time."
But yesterday, 25,000 pages of emails from a former aide raised new questions about the controversy and Walker's ties to the misconduct.
Walker used his campaign email to communicate with his county aides, who frequently used their own private email accounts when interacting with Walker or his campaign -- all of which would shield their discussions from the public. "Consider yourself now in the 'inner circle,'" Walker's administration director, Cynthia Archer, wrote to Walker aide Kelly Rindfleisch just after the two exchanged a text message in March 2010. "I use this private account quite a bit to communicate with SKW [Scott Kevin Walker] and Nardelli. You should be sure you check it throughout the day," she wrote, referring to Walker by his initials and to Walker's then-chief of staff, Tom Nardelli.
Up until yesterday, Walker said he wasn't fully aware of what his aides were up to, but yesterday's materials raise doubts about his denials.
Walker has characterized the activities as wayward behavior of low-level aides. But the e-mails show that he knew county officials were working closely with campaign officials. Walker, for instance, directed his county staff members and campaign aides to hold a daily conference call to coordinate strategy, the documents show. He routinely used a campaign e-mail account to communicate with county staff members, who also used private accounts, the documents show. Prosecutors have said the approach was used to shield political business from public scrutiny.
While this story continues to unfold, also note that the newly released emails touched on some unrelated angles that were nevertheless interesting.
For example, Walker called for the ouster of a woman who was hired as a doctor at the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division after he learned she'd been a thong model years earlier.