Saturday, February 4, 2012

Walkergate: Is This It?!

As is the norm for any politician who has bad news to share and wants to try to control the early spin, Scott Walker did a Friday afternoon news dump.

In this case, his campaign sent out a very terse, carefully worded and ambiguous press release indicating that he would be meeting with the Milwaukee County District Attorney in regards to Walkergate, the John Doe probe into illegal campaign activities and other misdeeds among his office as county executive and his campaign:
Over the last 20 months, District Attorney John Chisholm has been conducting an examination of issues in connection with former employees of Milwaukee County. Throughout that time, our campaign has cooperated with requests for information.

My cooperation in this matter extends beyond a willingness to supply any and all requested documents. I have already said that I would be happy to sit down with the people looking into these issues and answer any additional questions they may have. To make that point clear, last year, my representatives voluntarily contacted Mr. Chisholm’s office to arrange a time to discuss any outstanding issues. I will be voluntarily meeting with Mr. Chisholm.

To assemble additional background information, I hired counsel to insure that I am in the best position possible to continue aiding the inquiry. These attorneys, Mike Steinle and John Gallo, have been reviewing a great deal of material from the past few years, but no public money has been used or will be used for these purposes.

While all of us need to let this matter run its course, I will continue to cooperate and provide any appropriate information that is requested.
When this news hit the airwaves, I had people, some who were off vacationing in Florida, calling me, asking me, "Is this it?! Are they going to finally nail that dirtbag scum?!"

My answer to them was that it sure didn't look good for him, but cautioning that you never could be sure.

In his press release, as is always the case with Walker, what he doesn't say is at least as important as what he does say.

Walker basically admits that, contrary to what he's said before, he's been in contact with the DA's office at least two months ago regarding the investigation. He's also tells us that he had retained these two top-gun attorneys a while ago for them to pore over everything and develop a defense strategy.

Maybe the real tell to the release was the way Walker emphasized that no public money was going to his defense. By this, he's basically admitting that Walkergate is weighing heavy against him.

Also significant is who his attorneys are.

One of them, Mike Steinle, has quite a legacy. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he has a prestigious heritage and that his father defended crime boss Frank Balistrieri. Likewise, the Wisconsin State Journal reports that he also represented a Fox Point teen who killed his grandfather with an ax.

One Wisconsin Now also pointed out to the way Walker is lawyering up in a really big way with this interesting tidbit (emphasis mine):
Gov. Walker’s announcement that he’s beefing up his legal team with attorneys specializing in complex criminal law and real estate is just the latest twist in the scandal that’s engulfed his administration over these last twenty months.
The fact that one of them is a specialist in real estate law raises a red flag.

Not too long ago, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported about an angle of the Walkergate investigation that involved a shady bid-rigging and pay-for-play politicking. The story is fairly complex, but to simplify it, investigators were looking into some suspicious behaviors regarding a decision on where to house the Milwaukee County Department of Aging.

The Department of Aging was housed at the Reuss Federal Plaza in downtown Milwaukee from 2005-2010. In 2010, the county moved out of the Reuss building and into a county-owned building. However, in 2005 and again in 2010, there was some suspicious things being done to first get the agency to move in and then to stay.

And the agents in the case are people the gentle reader should already be aware of. One of them is Andrew Jensen, the commercial realty broker who was a guest of the county jail for a couple of days last year for not cooperating with the investigation. Another player was John Hiller, who was Walker's campaign treasurer for 18 years until mysteriously leaving last spring. (Hiller's departure was not even known until the fall, that's how secretive it was.)

Also entangled in this deal was Timothy Russell who seems to be in just about every mess there is in Walkergate and Bob Dennik, another Walker campaign worker turned county staff person. Both of these men wee also into realty. (I believe that Jim Villa, who was named in the Kelly Rindfleisch complaint, and is also a realty broker, was Walker's Chief of Staff at time.

I would take this moment to remind the gentle reader about the cozy relationship the realtors have with each other as well as with Walker.

So, to recap, Walker has both his campaign as well himself personally well-lawyered with some of the highest profile attorneys in the Midwest. His former and current staff, up to the highest levels, have either been charged or given immunity in relation to the John Doe, which has gone everywhere from illegal politicking to illegal donations and possibly pay-for-play.

While his apologists will be quick to point out that Walker himself has not yet been charged with any wrongdoings, there are a few facts to keep in mind:

  • He is surrounded by the people being charged with wrongdoing or given immunity,
  • In the things we do know for certain, there are holes in the story.  These holes appear to be most logically filled by Walker's involvement, 
  • There was the infamous email from Walker to Russell, after Russell has already left the county executive's office, mentioning specific issues such as laptops and websites,
  • There are some very questionable, even incriminating, emails that Walker had in 2009 involving both his county and campaign emails and the intermingling of the two.
Overall, it's pretty damning.

But it doesn't necessarily guarantee that this is Walker's Waterloo.

One must remember that the John Doe has already taken surprising twists, such as the recent charging of Supervisor Johnny Thomas, for allegedly taking a bribe to get a contract with the county approved.  There also may be other supervisors who under investigation.  But this still wouldn't necessarily exclude Walker from also being in deep water.

Another possibility is that Walker is going to be testifying against some of his former and/or current staffers and/or campaign workers.  The problem with that theory is that it doesn't explain the high level of lawyers.

Overall, one could safely say that Walker is a person of interest.  Whether he's John Doe or not has yet to be seen.  The same goes for whether this actually means that Walker is going to even get charged.  The events of Friday don't prove that.

But they sure make it seem likely, don't they?

35 comments:

  1. Unbelievably good reporting and you did a wonderful job laying it out in a logical and clear timeline. So glad I found your blog

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  2. Thanks Capper! let's hope his lawyers bill out at doubletime for weekend prep work; they are definitely paid well for their services to protect Hiller and/or Russell's history of sketchy campaigning on Mr Walker's behalf

    I'd like to clarify that it seems Johnny T had encountered his 'sting' in what may be a separate John Doe case presided by a different former appeals court justice

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  3. "Walker's Waterloo."

    Classic!

    John Gallo is from Sidley Austin, LLP in Chicago. Bice mentioned that's Obama's old firm.

    IANAL. Does Gallo's hiring means Walker assumes that if County charges are filed, they may mushroom into federal indictments?

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  4. I can't believe that he's there to testify against his former campaign staff because that would indicate that he had knowledge of what was going on, and then did nothing to stop it. I think calling him a person of interest is probably the most fair. As much as I would like to get my hopes up. As per the attorneys; can someone else pay for them, as in the Koch brothers, or even his campaign money, or does it have to come out of his pocket? Even with a 150K a year job, he'd run out of money pretty quick with those lawyers.

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  5. Interesting side note to the real estate angle: A few days ago the Wisconsin Association of Realtors endorsed Scott Walker in the recall over the objections of its membership, despite not knowing for sure if there WILL be recall (it's a forgone conclusion, but the GAB still has to certify it), AND not knowing who his challengers are.

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  6. Good stuff... It's also interesting that only a week earlier he was saying he was strictly prohibited from speaking about details of the investigation... now he's gushing at the mouth about it.

    Another important point: The campaign never responded to a Bice question of if he was subpoened or asked to come in. If you look at the parsed wording of the statement, its clear, by his mentioning of "voluntary" several times that he's prevaricating. If the prosecutors wanted to involuntarily get Walker in there, they would have to subpoena him AND give him immunity so he couldn't refuse to come in by pleading the fifth. If his statement IS truthful then what we can reasonably glean from it is that that prosecutors asked him to come-in for questioning, they're NOT granting him immunity for doing so, and he's therefore coming in "voluntarily."

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  7. As long as HIS money is paying for those high-priced attorneys and NOT MY tax dollars, let him lawyer up. It just makes him look even more guilty, just in time for the recall election. Excuse me while I laugh maniacally: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

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  8. Jud, thank you very much. If he was trying to get immunity, it sounds like he was willing to provide testimony against others.

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  9. If he is guilty of a crime he will be in the same league as Doyle and Barret. Remember you cant vote for the rest of your family and the dead now, like you used to. Might be tough to get a million votes against walker in an election when one person cant vote 80 times. And thats in a state of 5 million.

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    Replies
    1. Even if you weren't lying about all that, a rancid potato would be Walker considering there's a movement even among Republicans coming out for "anyone but Walker."

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  10. 7:23, there's a thing the GOP does called "voter caging." They send postcards to all the voters in districts that vote D. If the post card comes back, they know the person there cannot vote. Then they check the voter rolls to see if the person voted. They never catch anyone, because voter registration works. You can google it. Better yet, call Sykes.

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  11. Wasn't Taylor snagged in a different John Doe probe? It looked as if that had a different timeline and was based on a deliberate sting

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    1. grumps: who u talking 'bout, Taylor?
      Johnny Thomas?

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    2. You gotta forgive grumps, he's not been sleeping well, worrying about the Mittster.

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  12. Allright, I admit it, I'm wallowing in Walkergate and loving it.

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  13. Wingnuts are becoming increasingly incoherent. Sykes needs to get back on the air pronto to give the fools their talking points and restore order to Bizarro World.

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  14. gary cooper is john doe.

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    Replies
    1. Oh hold on: Dick York, Dick Sergeant, Sergeant York... Wow, thats weird!
      ~Garth

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    2. add in dick army and army sargeant for to take Garth's comments to 5th degree

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    3. John Wayne is mixed into this mess, too?

      Why not, every other Republican, dead or alive, seems to be.

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  15. Then it looks like they have foiled themselves with voter ID doesnt it John? Oddly enough they were not the party vetoing it all those years.

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  16. Down the rabbit hole...I'd like to know which respective attorney will play the role of Tweedle Dum and who is Tweedle Dee while Walker's been twiddling away from Wisconsinites

    And as John Doe scans them through the looking glass, will we see Reince Preibus or Mark Block as the Mad Hatter?

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  17. Excellent information - love how you explain it all. I coulda done without the "Waterloo" reference, however, as I now have that stupid ABBA song in my head. Damn!

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  18. Pawns, all of them. As long as the top figures in the money chain remain untouched, does anything really change even if Walker is indicted?

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  19. Agree Scott is a puppet, but Koch brothers and others have invested significantly in him. That's all cash that will not go to Paul Ryan or some other wingnut.
    Agree we have to hold the Koch brothers, Mike Grebe (Bradley Foundation), Steve Smith (Sykes' boss), Sykes and others accountable. Walker might be just the guy to serve them up on a platter.

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  20. Facts are wrong on attorney Steinle.

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  21. I'm hoping that whoever is paying for these lawyers keep tabs on the ongoing investigation. Walker can't afford the legal fees on his own, but one thing about conservatives - the ones with real money - is that they ARE conservative, especially with their investments. Walker may not look like a good investment to them pretty soon.

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  22. Where do you see that the lawyers specialize in real estate? Neither of their profiles suggest that at all.

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    Replies
    1. The same place I cited and linked to, One Wisconsin Now.

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    2. His Sidley Austin profile is vague but if you go to Martindale (the premier site for attorney information) Real Estate is listed as one of Gallo's specialties.

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    3. Real estate is not listed on martingale. http://www.martindale.com/John-N-Gallo/936433-lawyer.htm
      Cspowell you should check your own facts too not just trust others.

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