During his very short-lived presidential campaign, Scott Walker repeatedly attacked Hillary Clinton for conducting government business through her personal email address. Given that there were tens of thousands of pages of emails showing that Walker did the same thing as Milwaukee County Executive, the hypocrisy was enough to make one's hair hurt.
It turns out that even though Walker and his staff were under a criminal investigation for this, Walker continued to do it as governor.
In a rare moment of flagrant journalism, WKOW News did an open records request regarding the use of private emails to conduct state business. The records showed hundreds of personal emails were used. Their investigation also raised questions about how those emails were being handled:
But a 27 News investigation by Greg Neumann into the use and disclosure of personal emails by the Governor's office is raising questions about just how those records are handled.Wisconsin law does not explicitly forbid conducting state business through private emails. However, Walker claimed that it was his administration's policy that these emails be sent to their official accounts to keep them for prosperity.
On May 28, 27 News asked Gov. Walker if he knew whether former Chief of Staff Keith Gilkes, former Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch or other members of his administration had used personal email for government business.
"I don't know," said Gov. Walker. "I mean, not that I'm aware of."
But we now know the Governor was aware of it at the time that exchange took place.
Just a few days before we asked those questions, 27 News requested all of the emails sent to or from the personal email addresses of Gilkes, Huebsch, and Walker's second Chief of Staff Eric Schutt - that contained official state business communications.
Their personal email addresses were provided to 27 News by a tipster.
The Governor's office ultimately sent 980 pages worth of the emails to 27 News on Monday, October 12, nearly fourth months after our initial request.
"We have a strict policy in terms of our office or our administration that information regarding state business - conducted on state email - which would be our preference," said Gov. Walker.
But in the first year of the Walker administration, state business was conducted through more than 300 personal emails.
Much of it dealt with planning and strategy. A March 2011 email sent from from Gilkes to other senior staffers, included a memo detailing the self-described weaknesses of the Walker administration's first 100 days in office - mentioning Gov. Walker's overexposure to the media and long winded speeches.
Personal email was used to discuss big policy moments as well. One thread showed a discussion among senior staffers on the day after the State Senate passed Act 10. It includes the statement Secretary Huebsch ultimately released to the media on it being published and becoming law.
Others dealt directly with the strategy surrounding Act 10 and the concern caused after Judge Mary Ann Sumi blocked the law.
Some of the emails were sent to or from Governor Walker's own personal address, but we aren't sure how many due to the fact that both his personal and official email addresses are redacted in the records.
"All identifiers of the non-public official direct email address of the Governor have been redacted pursuant to the balancing test," David Rabe, assistant legal counsel to Gov. Walker, wrote to 27 News in a letter accompanying the records. "We have determined that the public interest in avoiding potential disruption of the Governor's ability to carry out his responsibilities without unnecessary interruption if his direct email address became common knowledge outweighs any public interest in disclosure."
That turned out to be another lie, which leads to even more disturbing questions (emphasis mine):
"Our office also routinely trains staff to forward any emails related to state business to their official accounts for the purpose of retention," said Gov. Walker's Press Secretary Laurel Patrick.The reason that the emphasized section should raise a red flag for the gentle reader is that on the very same date that Hagedorn had received these emails is the same day that Walker announced that he was politically appointing Hagedorn to an appellate court seat despite that Hagedorn had no experience or qualifications for that position.
But dozens of the emails 27 News received were never sent to an official state account until they were forwarded to the government email address of Gov. Walker's Chief Legal Counsel Brian Hagedorn on July 31, 2015. That date comes four years after the emails were originally written and two months after our open records request.
"Yeah, I think it's an issue to be sure and apparently and potentially a serious one," said Drechsel, who believes that delay and lag time raises questions about whether 27 News even got all of the personal emails that ever existed, or if some were permanently deleted from personal accounts long ago.
"To me, the policy that you described of forwarding those emails so they get into the state system is a very good one. But again, it all falls apart if people don't - in good faith - comply with the policy," said Drechsel.
Was that appointment made to reward Hagedorn for his political operations, as a form of hush money to buy Hagedorn's silence or both?
It is also worth noting that Walker didn't release those emails until well after he dropped out of the GOP presidential clown car. It should give one pause to wonder if money problems was the only or the real reason Walker dropped out of the race.