cronyism and corruption.
During the past five years, I pointed out the repeated acts of corruption from Walker and Russell. I took a lot of grief for it too. I was smeared by the worst of them, from Charlie Sykes on down. I was told that I had "Walker Derangement Syndrome." I was called a liar and had my life threatened more than once.
I even had people try to get me arrested and when that failed, fired, for doing exactly what Walker and his people were doing, even though I wasn't.
I told everyone and anyone who would listen to keep an eye on Tim Russell, that he was the weak link in Walker's chain of corruption.
And lo and behold, I received some degree of vindication when Russell, as well as four others, were arrested and charged with various crimes for Walkergate.
Russell was charged with embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from a veterans fund and two political funds. He used that purloined money to pay for vacations to Hawaii and the Caribbean. He also used some of the money to take a trip to meet and schmooze then presidential candidate Herman Cain. He also used some of that money to pay for things like Scott Walker's campaign website.
On Thursday, the matter involving Russell came closer to closure when he finally accepted a plea bargain. In said plea deal, Russell admitted to all three counts, although he will face punishment for one charge, the one involving stealing from the veterans fund.
In exchange for his guilty plea, Russell gets basically three things:
- He won't get charged with misconduct in office,
- He won't have to testify against anyone else, and
- Prosecutors will recommend only 30 months in prison and 30 months of supervised release.
If he was charged with all of the possible misconduct charges, he could have easily been in prison for the rest of his life. And while the judge is not constricted to follow the prosecutor's recommended sentence, it does carry a lot of weight. For the one charge, Russell could serve as much as ten years in prison and pay a hefty fine.
Sentencing is scheduled for January 22, 2013, which coincidentally is the same day that Russell's partner, Brian Pierick, has his motion hearing regarding his Walkergate charges of child enticement.
There are a couple things from today's event that needs to be addressed.
One is the quote given by Russell's attorney, Parker Mathews:
Russell "is looking forward to finally bringing these matters to a close and continuing to put his life back together," said Parker Mathers, Russell's attorney. "I also make note that this agreement does not require Mr. Russell to testify in any other matters, and that means a lot of good people are not going to have to testify for the defense and can bring a close to this story." He would not elaborate.The Walker apologists will undoubtedly latch onto this and try to spin it that this means that Walkergate is all but over, just like they've done over every other development in the Walkergate investigation for the past year.
But don't you believe them.
The DA's Office isn't going to let Russell - or Kelly Rindfleisch or Darlene Wink, for that matter - get off so easy when they could have gotten them for so much more unless they are really going after bigger game. They could have easily taken any of these cases the full length and had each of them put away for a long, long time.
What it means is that Russell already gave them the information they sought and that the next round is going to go in a different direction than the illegal campaigning. Something much more serious with bigger players. Possibly the bid rigging and strong arming for campaign contributions.
To put it in other words, the five people originally arrested and charged are not the end game, but rather just the beginning.
The other thing that I need to point out is something that is so outrageous and egregious that it made me do a spit take:
The governor's campaign spokesman, in a written statement, said: "Gov. Walker strongly condemns the actions taken by Tim Russell which took advantage of all the volunteers who worked so hard to honor military members and veterans with an annual recognition event."The hypocrisy and the falseness of this statement is breathtaking.
Just think about it.
more than 25 years. Russell has worked just about every one of Walker's campaigns in those years. And when they weren't in campaign mode, Walker would give Russell some cushy job, whether he was qualified for it or not. To say that Russell was in Walker's inner circle is almost an understatement.
These two men know each other inside out as well as one person can know another.
Yet Walker was only able to offer condemnation of Russell's actions. One would think that after having known Russell for so long and having worked with him so closely day in and day out for all those years, Walker would have expressed feelings of shock, of dismay, of sadness and of betrayal.
But Walker expressed none of those feelings, only condemnation.
Walker didn't express them because he didn't feel them.
And Walker did feel those feelings because he knew all along what was happening.
It was Walker who was using Operation Freedom, the program that the veterans fund was to be used for, as a thinly veiled campaign stunt. And even though Walker was fully aware that Russell had been fired from the state when he used a state credit card for personal purchases, he willfully put control of these funds directly into Russell's hands, through a front group controlled by Russell.
I think that the only thing that Walker was really condemning was that Russell got caught.
So, the end result of the day is that we now have four of Walker's top aides convicted of felonies, one more with a trial pending and only God and the DA's Office knowing how many more are about to come in the next round or rounds.
So buckle up your seatbelts and get a good grip on your popcorn. This ride ain't anywhere close to being over.