A variety of Republican governors have found themselves at the center of assorted controversies this year. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's
(R) multiple scandals, for example, are the subject of multiple investigations. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback's
(R) office has drawn the FBI's interest. Texas Gov. Rick Perry
(R) is involved in a legal controversy of his own, while former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell
(R) is currently facing corruption charges.
Prosecutors allege that Gov. Scott Walker was at the center of an effort to illegally coordinate fundraising among conservative groups to help his campaign and those of Republican senators fend off recall elections during 2011 and '12, according to documents unsealed Thursday. In the documents, prosecutors lay out what they call a "criminal scheme" to bypass state election laws by Walker, his campaign and two top deputies -- R.J. Johnson and Deborah Jordahl.
At issue are the campaign activities overseen by the governor and his team during the recall election two years ago. Walker has been accused of illegal coordination with allied political groups that were supposed to operate independently.
Of particular interest is a newly released email in which the governor communicated directly with Karl Rove -- yes, that Karl Rove -- about the alleged coordination.
The prosecutors allege that Walker and those allies raised money and coordinated spending with about a dozen conservative groups during the recall elections. They cite a May 2011 email from Walker to prominent national GOP strategist Karl Rove saying that Johnson would lead the coordination. "Bottom-line: R.J. [Walker aide R.J. Johnson] helps keep in place a team that is wildly successful in Wisconsin. We are running 9 recall elections and it will be like 9 congressional markets in every market in the state (and Twin Cities)," Walker wrote to Rove on May 4, 2011, the documents say. Johnson is also top adviser to Wisconsin Club for Growth, a conservative group that was active in the recall elections. In the documents, prosecutors write that Johnson has said, "We own [Club for Growth]."
Well, that sounds ... pretty incriminating.
I've seen some suggestions this afternoon that these revelations will likely hurt Walker's presidential ambitions in 2016. That's true, though it's arguably missing the more relevant point:
Walker is in the middle of a very competitive
gubernatorial race right now, where polls show Democrat Mary Burke within about four points of the incumbent. The words "Walker" and "criminal scheme" appearing in the same sentence seems likely to have an effect on this race, long before anyone starts thinking about the governor's national ambitions.
We now know Scott Walker -- not just his office, but him personally -- is the subject of an ongoing investigation. It's the sort of news that puts his career in jeopardy.
For more, the prosecutors' documents have been posted online here
(pdf) by American Bridge 21st Century, a super PAC aligned with Democrats.
: If you're new to Walker's scandal or need a refresher, this Q&A
is helpful (thanks to my colleague Nazanin Rafsanjani for the heads-up).