Friday, January 27, 2012

Walkergate: John Doe Hits A Bullseye!

On Sunday, just five days ago, I wrote a piece about how the John Doe investigation, commonly referred to as Walkergate, into Scott Walker's county executive staff and campaign staff, which appear to be the same thing in many instances, was about to take a caucus scandal twist.

I pointed out how it appeared that Walker's Deputy Chief of Staff, Kelly Rindfleisch, was doing a lot of campaign work for then Assemblyman Brett Davis, who was Walker's and WISGOP's preferred choice for Lt. Governor.

Lo and behold, on Thursday morning, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisolm announced the arrest and charging of Darlene Wink and Kelly Rindfleisch.

And with that news, we gained an even larger glimpse of just how corrupt Walker's office and campaign really was.  In fact, this was the first solid bit of news to come from the actual Walkergate investigation and John Doe hit a bullseye on the first pass.

In the complaint against Darlene Wink, who set off this whole investigation by leaving comments on JSOnline and other sites, we learn that not only was she leaving comments, but was actively fundraising and organizing campaign events from her county office on county time.

Most of the complaint is an itemization of the times that Wink was doing her political work, but there are some eye-catching names included in her emails.  For example, there are references to squawk radio hosts James T. Harris and Vicki McKenna doing emcee duties for a fundraising event and having Charlie Sykes promote it on his show.  I would love to see if there were email exchanges between Wink and the squawkers.

We do know that Wink did have email exchanges with Reince Priebus, then chair of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, to see if he could get Sarah Palin to help them with a fundraiser.  Eventually, this fund raiser was scrapped due to lack of interest.

The most intriguing thing about Wink comes not from the complaint against her.  Instead, we learn that Wink was given a plea deal.  Instead of getting charged with felonies, which they could have easily convicted her for, they gave her the chance to make it two misdemeanors and probably won't even see jail time.  In exchange, Wink will testify against her co-defendants on other illegal campaigning allegations and most notably, regarding the "destruction of digital evidence."  In other words, we might have just learned what happened to all those missing computers and files that suddenly grew legs at the end of Walker's term and walked away.  Of course, many of the computers and what not had already been detained by the DA's Office on November 1.

But when one is facing recall, they probably don't want their name associated with a massive cover up like that.

If you thought that the names in the Wink complaint were interesting, the ones found in the complaint against Kelly Rindfleisch is a regular Rogues Gallery.  Among the 57 pages of detailed explanation of the misconduct she is accused of doing, names like Robin Vos, Mike Huebsch, and, of course, Brett Davis. Also listed are Walker staffers Darlene Wink, Tim Russell, Tom Nardelli and campaign staffers such as Cullen Werwie, Keith Gilkes, Stephan Thompson and my personal favorite, Jill Bader.

From this complaint, one of the things that stands out the most is the fact that Tim Russell set up a secondary, secret email system using a wireless router designed to set up a 3G network.  They used this set up for their campaigning and fundraising emails, as well as official county business.  But because it was secret even to the head of IT, any open records requests would miss this.

Interestingly, after all of this came out, Walker basically put the governor's office on lockdown, cancelling all of his events, including a trip to Wausau.  Oddly, the weather for Wausau was in the mid-30's and sunny, with patchy fog.  Nothing that would keep him from making a trip.  Besides, I'd bet my bottom dollar he's traveled through worse weather to get to one of his out-of-state fundraisers.

Walker eventually came out with a statement, through his campaign, which was very terse:
“The Milwaukee County executive's office expressed policy was that county employees were not permitted to use county time or resources to conduct any political activity. Scott Walker expected everyone to follow the law and made that clear publicly and privately," Walker campaign spokeswoman Ciara Matthews said in the statement.
Well, that takes care of that. I'm sure the Walker apologists will take this statement and the fact that Walker hasn't been indicted (yet) to show that he is a victim just like the rest of the people in Milwaukee County and in all of the state.

But as we all already know all too well, just because Walker said something, doesn't make it true.  In fact, it's usually the opposite.  And this is no exception.

In the Rindfleisch complaint, on page 50, we see this exchange that Walker sent regarding the damage control after Wink was caught and had resigned from her position in the county:

That clearly indicates that Walker knew exactly what his staff was doing and was ordering them to start covering their tracks.  This was also about the time that Milwaukee County Supervisor John Weishan started doing his own open records requests into Walker's office.

It also contradicts his statement regarding his policy of doing politicking from his governmental office.  But we already knew that when he got busted soliciting for political help from a person he had thought was David Koch

If the investigation were to end with this, they could probably indict Walker with the information they already have.  But this is far from over.

Remember that commercial realtor Andrew Jensen was to report to the DA's Office just yesterday.  And there are indications that they are looking at a pay-for-play scenario regarding the realtors, some of which are Walker's staff, both in the county and in his campaign.

And the complaints show that there was two way communications between Walker's executive office and his campaign.  All of the campaign workers could be looking at possible charges as well.

And I am hearing things of yet another mess that might be coming down the pike besides the ones that are already known.

And there are a couple, three questions that I am pondering:

  • How is Rebecca Kleefisch handling the realization that she's hooked up her minivan to a guy and a whole political party that didn't even want her as Lt,. Governor?
  • Are any of Walker's big time out-of-state donors calling asking for their money back since every day makes Walker look more like a losing bet?
  • Does anyone still believe that Walker turned in these people like he claimed after Tim Russell got arrested?
While this was definitely a bullseye and puts Walker in a very untenable position, there is no reason in the world to even think that John Doe isn't already aiming his next shot or that this one will miss its target either.

The next few days and weeks and months will definitely be interesting as Walkergate continues to unveil itself.


  1. Interesting that the campaign put in the words: "...and privately". That tells me there were "inside" discussions. He probably knows that something is going to come out showing he knew and it was discussed. That's probably why he said it.

    Nice little minivan jab. LOL.

  2. Great post! beautiful job of slogging through the fine print and interpreting for us.

    I had missed the fact that Wink was charged with misdemeanors in exchange for testifying. Means they really can squeeze her -- if she doesn't give prosecutors something worth their while, they can still threaten to reinstate the felony charges -- and jail time -- because she ins't cooperating. Isn't that how it usually works?

  3. Yup, that's they way it was spelled out in the letter.

  4. If Walker gets indicted, but does NOT resign (and is not impeached), that should have some effect on votes in the recall election.

    If Walker gets indicted, and DOES resign, leaving Rebecca Kleefisch the acting Governor, will the loyalty and near-worship of the Pray-for-Walker crowd transfer seamlessly to her, or will that substantially change the odds in the recall election?

  5. There's a lot of debate about that. No one seems to know for sure.

  6. It is my understanding that if Walker resigns and Kleefisch becomes Governor the recall against her is moot because she is now Governor. Her recall petitions are recalling her for Lt Gov. Lets hope they wait til the petitions are verified

  7. I recall that one of Walker's first expenditures was $60,000 for iPads for, maybe, DOA? I don't recall who. Just saying.

  8. The complaint does describe that Wink brought her own laptop to work and was obviously using it quite often using a cellular modem.

    I don't understand how Walker could deny that he ever saw the laptop, especially when he's later quoted as saying "no laptops." I think he understood what the laptops (plural?) were being used for.

    I think Russell set up some web-based email portal that a few campaign staff were using. I don't see where that's explained in the complaint, nor do I see where (as you put it) "Tim Russell set up a secondary, secret email system using a wireless router designed to set up a 3G network." The complaint didn't say that Russell had anything to do with Wink's cellular modem, did it, nor did it connect the use of it to the email system.

    I especially like the exchange on page 29 between Wink and Russell:

    How do I get rid of the PDF form off of my IM?

    When you close yahoo it will go away

    OK - I just am afraid of going to jail - ha! ha!

    You wouldn't, not for that.

  9. John, I don't have time to look for which page, but it's somewhere in the Rindfleisch complaint. The DA goes into some detail about the router and whatnot.

  10. Found. The Wink complaint doesn't say it, the Rindfleisch one does. It says Russell supplied Rindfleisch's cellular modem. Page 4. On page 14, they document Russell buying both a cellular modem (used by a single laptop) and a mobile hotspot (that could be shared by several users.) Confusingly, it says Rindfleisch did use the hotspot as well, but doesn't definitively say that Wink or anyone else ever did. So maybe this means someone else could be charged... who was also using the hotspot. Why buy a hotspot if it wasn't for multiple users?

  11. The FBI seems to be more heavily involved in the investigation than first appearances. FBI involvement usually means wiretaps, which are ridiculously easy to get now. But in this case I have no objections.

    I wonder if Scottie drops as many F-bombs as Blago.

  12. Those who live in glass houses..

  13. Wouldn't it be neat if Kathy Nicklaus's laptop were part of the network-in-the-armoire?

  14. Maybe they should do an inventory for all the new gadgets he bought when he started his term.

  15. Anony, Capper is the person who MOST deserves to be able to speak out at this moment. He was found to have been READING political blogs during work hours. For that he was lambasted by every right-winger who didn't like his opinions and who relished a chance to flog him. Where's their indignation now?

    1. I have had the pleasure of meeting and knowing Chris Liebenthal for a few years now. I am a member of Milwaukee County First with him and have been with him since the beginning of Milwaukee County First(the month of February 2009) when County Executive Scott Walker turned down millions in stimulus dollars because he was worried about the Federal Governments' deficit problems rather that his own (Milwaukee County(hence Milwaukee County First(as a saying))) deficit problems. I know that you can rely upon him utterly. My Friend Chris Tells the truth and He Keeps his word. Go visit and see the fantastic work he does over there. Make a donation as we at Milwaukee County First are a registered PAC and keep enjoying our Cappers fine work. The latest example of Chris' work showed up in the Shepherd Express and gives a panoramic view of the whole issue. .
      Keep on keeping on old friend!

      Best Regards to you Capper.

      David Fulwiler

  16. The campaign work might arguably have been done without Walker's knowledge -- and Walker's supporters will argue that, heatedly.

    But the pay-to-play (which WISN-12 now reports is also being investigated)... that can't be done by staff alone, it requires the county executive's own participation.

    Should we start covering over our "RECALL WALKER" bumper stickers with "INDICT WALKER" bumper stickers?

    There's a niche for an entrepreneur to exploit....

  17. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had an article about the real estate stuff on Tuesday. Sort of detail-y.

  18. Guilty before a trial. Guilt by association. Corrupt beyond all imagination because several of many staffers have been indited for doing what government workers do best, not work.

    I'm so glad I signed a recall petition 80 times, and I plan to vote as many times as I can, because Walker is sooo corrupt!

    Did anybody hear of the new Army missile program called the Civil Servant?

    It doesn't work and you can't fire it;-)

  19. Anon 1/28 07:38: If you signed 80 times, you did so knowing that only one of them would count, and the other 79 would be disregarded as duplicates, once the petitions went through verification. The final signature count would be the same as if you'd only signed once in the first place.

    So the only reason you'd sign 80 times would be to give recall petition collectors false confidence of having enough signatures -- in other words, to deceive them, to act *against* them.

    Amazing how much the pro-Walker side relies on deception, e.g. offering petition forms they have no intention of turning in, but plan to destroy -- which is the original reason people started signing more than one form, just to be sure they got counted at all.

  20. I'm sorry, but Walker surrendered his plausible deniability defense when he stupidly permitted a secret email system to be established in the County Executive offices a mere 25 feet from his desk.

    Essentially he will be arguing that all the people around him, people he hired and who worked under his direction as County Executive, were breaking the law but he wasn't aware of it. After all, he was an Eagle Scout in his youth. Prosecutors love going against defenses like that.

    Does he really think that everyone on his staff will gladly accept prison time to defend their Dear Leader?

  21. Anonymous 1201

    Reading is fundamental. From the site you cite: Lyday said she found no evidence that the blogger had used county equipment to post on his blogs.

    Man, I tell ya, good trolls are so hard to find.

  22. So, Walker is a multiple pay to play and public records concealment and destruction mass felon. When is Chisholm going to charge and arrest him?