The plot thickens as the cast expands in Walkergate
This from the Jan 26 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
“Two staffers who worked directly for Gov. Scott Walker while he was county executive were charged Thursday with illegally doing extensive political work while being paid by taxpayers to do county jobs.
One of the two, Darlene Wink, cut a deal with prosecutors under which she agreed to provide information in a related investigation about the destruction of digital evidence and to aid in further prosecutions. This is the first indication that the multifaceted John Doe investigation may be pursuing charges of evidence tampering.
“Milwaukee County prosecutors also made the surprising disclosure that top Walker aides set up a private Internet network to allow them to communicate with one another by email about campaign as well as county government work without the public or co-workers’ knowledge.
“The emails Walker officials traded via the shadow network could provide investigators with a trove of information as they pursue other angles in the case. Earlier this week, the Journal Sentinel reported that the probe was focusing on possible bid-rigging and other misconduct in the competition to house the county Department on Aging in private office space.”
We also gained insight into why Walker’s press spokesman, Cullen Werwie, might have needed immunity in the ongoing investigation. He was on the campaign staff of then Sen. Brett Davis, who was running for lieutenant governor until he was knocked off in the September 2010 GOP primary. Even more interesting – but not particularly surprising – is that it looks like Davis was the favored pick in the Walker camp before political novice Rebecca Kleefisch came out on top in the primary. (After the fact, Walker said he voted for Kleefisch, too. And Bill Clinton said didn’t inhale.)
Davis was apparently too moderate for the hard right Tea Party crowd. Happily for him, he ended up with a position in the Walker administration watching over the Medicaid program and we all know what happened with Werwie. Neither is talking to the media about any of this. Werwie knows there is no immunity in the court of public opinion or, more importantly, from the opinion of Walker. Davis has a similar issue, although it’s easy enough to believe that he didn’t have any idea about what was going on inside Walker’s Milwaukee County administrative offices, isn’t it? I mean, if Walker didn’t know about it – which is what Walker is trying real hard to sound like he’s saying – then how could Davis know? (But let’s keep in mind that there is a big difference between saying that there were policies in place prohibiting certain behavior and being able to say that Walker was running a clean operation, which we already know that it wasn’t.)
And when you stop and think about it, how much less do you think Brett Davis knows than Cullen Werwie, who needed immunity? But regardless, people in these positions who find themselves in these situations don’t necessarily do the deciding about what they will address with the media, if they want to stay on the payroll. The Medicaid gig is a pretty good one for Davis, who lives within easy commuting distance.
I ran into Davis after the primary and before the general election in the fall of 2010. It was a chance meeting, since we were both outside the capitol building due to a bomb threat. I have to tell you that I kind of liked the guy. He used a good share of the time that we spent under the evacuation order to talk with a school tour group that had shown up for their day at the capitol, only to be denied access. Thanks to Davis, the students had the opportunity to learn from a three-term senator instead of just standing around wasting their visit and I thought that was admirable. Also out on the perimeter sidewalk was Democratic Senator Dave Hansen, who made no bones about the fact that he felt the Republicans had blown it by not selecting Davis for their ticket. (But again, being able to get along with colleagues of the other party isn’t really an asset in a GOP primary and depending on how it is spun, it can actually prove to be a substantial liability.)
Lieutenant governors tend to be more of an afterthought in Wisconsin general elections, since they run on a ticket with the governor. Weird things can happen along the way and this is not the first time that a governor didn’t get his first pick in the lieutenant governor’s office and subsequently gave his guy – an ex-senator — a job in his administration, (as Kevin Shibilski can tell you.)
It will be interesting to see Kleefisch running on her own in the upcoming recall and it’s something for which we have no useful precedent. One of the challenges reported by some recall signature gatherers was her much lower name recognition, in comparison to Walker’s. She’s personable enough, but the Dems will have no problem coming up with some Palin-esque quotes to help define her, such as comparing same-sex marriage to marrying tables, clocks or dogs. And then there is the matter of simply pairing Kleefisch up with Walker, which is why she finds herself in this situation to begin with and there’s no shaking it. Will party operatives be willing to cough up funds for Kleefisch and her independent race to keep her job – particularly with Walker needing so much in the way of resources, himself?
I have no doubt that if Brett Davis had become lieutenant governor, he would be up for recall now, too. And should the recall go badly for Walker, he’s going to be just as much out of a job. Some people think he should be out of a job right now. But since there is no need to be a team player when you’re not on the team, my guess is that Walker won’t be firing him any time soon, no matter how culpable or innocent he eventually turns out to be. I’m also going to guess that Davis may not even show up very prominently in the screen credits of the growing cast of Walkergate. Of course, I have no idea. And right now, nobody’s saying.
Criminal Complaint for Kelly Rindfleisch:
Wisconsin State Journal graphic shows the present state of Walkergate: