Monday, February 20, 2012

Walkergate: The Caucus Scandal Rides A Harley

In what seems like a lifetime ago in some ways, but was really only five months ago, I wrote "An Introduction to Walkergate." In that piece, I mentioned the suspicious motorcycle ride that Scott Walker took on the pretense that he was promoting tourism in Milwaukee County, even though everyone could see that it was a campaign stunt:
Also in May of last year, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin followed Walker on his annual bike ride to promote his candidacy Milwaukee County.  This bike ride has long been a source of contention, with many, including myself, who kept pointing out that it was a thinly veiled publicly-funded campaign exploit.  Sure enough, they got lots of evidence, including footage, of long-time aide, campaign worker and close friend, Tim Russell, doing non-county work, even though he was traveling as a county employee. In August 2010, the Sheriff's Office did a search of Russell's office, confiscating his computer, his Blackberry and boxes of papers.
Little did I realize at the time what a big deal that motorcycle ride was going to be after all.

But since then, we've discussed the questionable way that the bike ride was funded by a private company that had just gotten a big deal from Milwaukee County a few weeks before. And don't forget the gaffe of "Say Republican!"  And don't forget that Walker had moved the bike ride up by several weeks because the end of June was just "too hot" to ride a motorcycle - never mind that the ride conveniently ended as the Republican state convention was kicking off in Milwaukee.

Another thing that we had discussed much more recently is the turn that Walkergate was taking to make it closely resemble the caucus scandals from ten years ago. Sure enough, five days after I wrote that, Kelly Rindfleisch, who had been part of the original caucus scandals, was arrested for campaigning and fund raising on county time and from her county office.

Well, now there is a tie between these two aspects of the Walkergate investigation.

That tie is named Judith "Judi" Rhodes Engels.

Ms. Rhodes Engels was part of the caucus scandal from a decade ago, at least according to the criminal complaint against Scott Jensen (scroll down to page 16):
[DCI Special Agent] Strauss reports that she has participated in interviews with Judith Rhodes Engels (“Engels"), who has stated in part the following. Engels was state-employed in the Ladwig Capitol office November 1996 - March 2001. Sherry Schultz was in charge of fundraising for individual Republican members of the Assembly, including completing their campaign finance reports and assisting in fundraisers. After the 1998 elections, Engels and Ladwig discussed the fact that Schultz was “creating a monster” in that legislators were becoming too dependent on Schultz and her campaign finance related services. Engels worked with Schultz on fundraising issues. Schultz did not appear to have any duties other than fundraising. Engel's job was to keep track of contributions from legislators to RACC, which are referred to as "assessments." Schultz's duties included keeping track of where this money went for the individual campaigns. On occasion Engels received checks for individual campaigns and provided them to Schultz. Schultz created various documents regarding fundraising at RACC meetings held in Jensen's Capitol office. In a RACC meeting after the 2000 election in Jensen’s Capitol office, Jensen thanked Schultz for all she did for members of the “team” in connection with the money that had been raised.
Sometime after the caucus scandal, Rhodes Engels ended up working in the legislative office of Senator Scott "Snit Fit" Fitzgerald.

By 2007, she was working for WISGOP, but still helping out Fitzgerald and his brother:
Monday, December 10, 2007

Senator Scott Fitzgerald and Representative Jeff Fitzgerald Christmas Reception
5:00-7:00 PM
Erin’s Snug Irish Pub
4601 American Parkway
Madison, WI
Host options: Shamrock host level: $250/ couple (includes lapel pin), Pot o’ Gold host level: $100/ couple. Sorry, no PAC or corporate contributions. Please make checks payable to: Scott Fitzgerald for Senate and/ or Jeff Fitzgerald for Assembly, PO Box 2741, Madison, WI 53701. For questions or to RSVP, please contact Judi Rhodes at (608) 345-3780 or
(If anyone could tell me what WASS stands for, that would be great.)

Ms. Rhodes Engels turned up again in 2010, but not as a fund raiser for the Fitzgeralds. Instead, she was one of the many GOP operatives that went along with Walker for that infamous motorcycle tour of the state to promote Walker's campaign tourism:
Two people not talking about any controversy are Judy Rhodes-Engels and her daughter. They are just two of the 140 riders joining Walker on his ride through much of Wisconsin, plus parts of Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan.

Rhodes-Engels said she is a fan of the attention their group gets as they roll into town on their choppers.

"When you're in a big massive group like this," said Rhodes-Engles, "everyone looks at you everywhere you go."


Most of the participants in the Executive's Ride aren't concerning themselves with any political bickering. They said they're just happy to be along for the trip.

"It's a great experience to share everything about Milwaukee with the rest of the state and even some of the other states that may not have been there," said Rhodes-Engles.
Well, isn't that just special?

As with all things Walker, there are a few special problems with this.

In 2010, Ms. Rhodes Engels was living in Cottage Grove, WI, which is in Dane County, some 70 miles to the west of Milwaukee. Another problem is that, when she was not donating $700 to Walker's campaign, she was still working for WISGOP:

(click to embiggen)
On a side note, her 2011 donations total nearly $2,000, with a really odd one for $8.50. I bet there's a strange story behind that one.

In sum, we have a WISGOP operative, who lives in Cottage Grove, WI and specializes in fund raising for Senator Scott Fitzgerald, going on the Harley Davidson tour and we're really supposed to believe that this was to promote tourism in Milwaukee County and had absolutely nothing to do with Walker's campaign? Really? Really?

I think it would be very interesting to know what Scott Fitzgerald has to say about this.  Not to mention Reince Priebus, who was the head of WISGOP at the time.

I'm also wondering if Ms. Rhodes Engels had something more to do with the bike ride than just being a tag along.

I'm also wondering if Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisolm is aware of all of this.

And isn't this picture of Ms. Rhodes Engels just so symbolic of the Walker/Fitzgerald regime?


  1. Again, outstanding work man. All I can say is Walker wanted to win the governorship so badly he did whatever it took. He's a cheater, period.

  2. There's the story, man. Reince Preibus and the trail of money...

  3. Now when will we see results & Walker go to jail? That is what I would like to know. I see so many people want to jump on any little thing to send citizens in jail but NO government employee EXCEPT the one in Chicago ever go to jail!

  4. Hmmmm, maybe Walker is correct that he is not John Doe -- or not the only one. Maybe Reince Preibus (also) is John Doe? Reason for the national media to finally start paying attention to this. (Yeh, right, that's going to happen.)

  5. WASS is the Wisconsin Association of Staffing Services,

    I believe you've seen which features Judi Rhodes Engels.

  6. $2,000 in campaign contributions. From Judi? Does she have the wherewithal to do this or was she washing money that came from someone else?

  7. could also be Web Appointment Scheduling System WASS

  8. September 19 (2006)

    Event for Mark Green
    Esquire Club, 1025 N. Sherman Ave., Madison. All contributions gratefully accepted. For more information contact: Judi Rhodes Engles, (608) 345-3780 or 8 a.m.

  9. September 18 (2006)
    · Event for Mark Green
    9614 Hill Creek Drive, Verona. $100 per person. For more information please contact: Judi Rhodes Engels at (608) 345-3780 or 6 p.m.

  10. January 10 (2007)
    · Jeff Fitzgerald for Assembly reception
    Madison's Dining Diversions, 119 King St., Madison. $500 per person For questions or to RSVP please contact Judi Rhodes at or 608-345-3780 Fitzgerald for Assembly PO Box 2741 Madison, WI 53701 5 p.m.

  11. Then there's the tie between Ladwig and Robin Vos, who is involved with the redistricting scandal

  12. And about Reince Priebus... THAT'S the scandal. Follow the money from Russell to Mark Block (FBI prob already knows that), then to Herman Cain and then Kochs. The orchestrator? Priebus. Why do you think he flew all the way to Wisconsin to attend the Lincoln Day thing in Racine last Friday. Out of the goodness of his heart? Nah. Walker, Fitz and Vos are in a shitload of trouble, trials are this week, and on top of the DA's work, it looks as if the lid is about to blow off this RNC toilet. Having Koch suddenly announce public support is just desperate deflection from the real story: Priebus.

  13. Good find on that last picture in the article...I wonder if Ms Rhodes Engels is picturing Tim Russell squatting above the dome while she divvies out another slice of the capitol halls/chambers