These "Executive Rides" have long been a thorn for both those of us who want clean government and for Walker himself. I say they've been a problem for Walker because he has been so inept and so corrupt, he kept tripping himself up every time he took one of these trips.
|Image by Stuart Carlson|
The water got a little hotter when he was busted handing out $19,000 worth of goodies to people. He gave these goodies to the media in order to win friendly press and to non-media types who were supporting his campaign.
After Walker got bumped out of the 2006 race, things settled down for a little bit, although he was still using taxpayer dollars to promote himself on these Harley Davidson rides.
When Walker started gearing up for his second run for governor, so did his "Executive Ride" related antics.
In 2009, he got Air Tran to sponsor part of his campaign bike ride, which in itself was illegal. But he also had his scheduling secretary book reservations for the people that wanted to come along. Even though she was a county employee, he had her use her personal email to make the arrangements.*
Walker claimed that the illegal corporate donations were to save taxpayer money on his campaign rides, but the truth was that he was still using taxpayer dollars laundered through groups like ChooseMilwaukee.com and The Milwaukee 7, both of which Walker was a board member.
It was later learned that Walker had given Air Tran a contract for a much larger space at the county-ran Mitchell Airport about the same time they were making the announcement that they were sponsoring his bike ride.
That same year, Walker made a stink about two county supervisors who went to Washington, D.C. to see Obama's inauguration, calling the expense "mind-boggling." What he didn't mention is that these same supervisors came back with millions of dollars in stimulus funding. This was a much better deal than the thousands of tax dollars spent for his bike rides which only paid out in campaign contributions for Walker.
The year 2010 brought even more audacity from Walker.
too hot at the end of June to ride a motorcycle. Just because this new dates for his campaign ride just so happened to end as the same time the Republican Convention was strictly coincidental, or he tried to get us to believe.
By now, the gentle reader is probably wondering just how the hell Walker was able to get away with all of this for all those years.
Well, the answer is pretty simple.
Walker was the person who appointed the people to the Milwaukee County Ethics Board.
In late spring, after the Ethics board had their quarterly meeting, Walker would run his bike ride past his hand-picked chairman of the board, who would rubber stamp it. By the time got around to reviewing the proposal for the ride, it had already happened, so the board would just approve it.
However, 2010 brought things that were too big for the Ethics Board to rubber stamp.
The Democrats got smart and finally sent someone to tag along to videotape Walker's trip. They got some interesting videos, too.
They got one where Tim Russell was seen unfurling Air Tran banners, even though he was supposedly acting in his official capacity as a county employee. In another video, Russell, sporting an Air Tran t-shirt, is arranging a photo op with local Republican politicians, including Senator Luther Olsen. Please note how Walker had to correct the group to say "Tourism" instead of "Republican" as the photographer had told them to say.
The Democrats took their videos** to the GAB, who then directed them to take it to the Milwaukee County District Attorney. Remember this the next time Walker tries to claim he initiated the Walkergate investigation.
And as a fun side note, the 2010 also featured a rider named Judith Rhodes-Engels, who is more infamous for being Senator Scott Fitzgerald's campaign fundraiser and close confidante.
So, why do I bring all this up?
Well, I was reminded of it when it was reported that a Harley Davidson dealer named Christopher Brekken filed a frivolous lawsuit against Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf, the main prosecutor handling Walkergate. From said article:
The suit, filed in Barron County Circuit Court in September, claims that Brekken could not produce or obtain the very specific information that had been subpoenaed, and he told Landgraf he could not.This does raise some interesting questions and opens the door to some even more interesting speculation.
But a bench warrant was issued for Brekken in October 2010 that required him to travel to Milwaukee that November to again affirm under oath that he couldn't find out the full credit card number used by specific person on a specific date at Rice Lake Harley.
In quoting the subpoena, the lawsuit redacts the name, date, amount and partial credit card number.
Since Landgraf knew the identity of the person making the purchase, the date on which the purchase was made, one could logically conclude that he also knows what was purchased. The only thing he apparently already didn't know was the full credit card number.
This leads me to believe that he found a receipt for a purchase made at that specific dealership. The receipt would have the date, the amount and the name of the person making the charge. However, all but four numbers would have been blocked off.
We know that the DA's office did very thorough raids on Walker's executive offices in the Milwaukee County Courthouse and on Tim Russell's county office and his home. The receipt most likely came from one of these places and the purchaser was most likely either Walker or Russell.
And let us not forget that Russell already has a history of misusing government credit cards for personal purchases.
I don't know if we'll ever know who bought what, or whether it, whatever it is, was bought using a county credit card.
But it does show us just how thorough the DA's Office has been and how corrupt Walker and his gang has been, as if we need further proof of either of those things.
*This is something that has recurred in his time as governor, where he would have potential contractors submit their bids to his staff's personal email. He did this in an obvious attempt to elude open record request.
**Scott Wittkopf has two more videos that even I hadn't seen before.