Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Walkergate Special: Loyalty - What Is It Good For

The following was sent to me by a friend of Cog Dis who wishes to be identified as Reader Jane Doe.  It appears unedited by me, with the exception that I added the photo:

Loyalty – What Is It Good For?
When Walker’s close aides - Kelly Rindfleisch, Darlene Wink, and Tim Russell -were indicted, I began to seriously ponder the issue of loyalty. People who make a living in the political world have to sign on, not to a team or an organization, but to an individual. And in signing on, they are pledging their loyalty to that individual. Even if a political staffer feels she is signing on to a team (of like-believers) and not just an individual politician, there is no question that the primary beneficiary of the team is the politician. And the staffer knows, going in, that the loyalty is strictly one way. No one really expects the politician to return loyalty in kind, at least not in public. After all, everyone is working toward the goals of only one person; from the outset, it is not a balanced relationship. But the staffer, nonetheless, commits her loyalty. But there are different shades of loyalty. What makes the difference between coattails loyalty and Kool-Aid loyalty?

A politician or office holder may hire two people to do similar work. Both come from the political world where networking and connections have led them to the job. Both commit their loyalty and both perform to expectation. But one individual’s loyalty is fundamentally tied up with advancing his own interests, whether it’s the paycheck or future opportunities. He works hard to advance the interests of his boss, but his loyalty is one of a professional nature. In contrast, the other’s loyalty transcends the professional expectation and becomes personal. Yes, he is interested in advancing his own interests, but, independent of that, he passionately seeks to advance the interests of his boss. In times of crisis (and I would say that a John Doe investigation is something of a crisis), loyalty becomes greatly tested. In short, does the aide spill the beans and protect himself if need be? Or does he fall on his sword for his boss/leader? One would think that the coattail loyalist is likely to protect himself, while the Kool-Aid loyalist is far more likely to struggle with the question of who to protect.

Loyalty plays a large role in today’s Republican circles in general and with Walker in particular. To be a member of the Republican/Walker club requires great fealty to the individuals in power and to their agenda. There is little dissension in their ranks because loyalty is a prerequisite to membership; independent or different-minded thinkers are not particularly welcome (or drawn to the party). There is a fraternity boy aspect of loyalty and conformity that has allowed an awful lot of people to hide behind groupthink and talking points.

In the case of Walker’s inner circle, their allegiance to Walker reflects if not a warped, then at least a very flexible code of ethics. For these people in particular, loyalty may be a much more powerful driving force than, say, abiding by the law or being true to one’s own sense of right and wrong. For some political operatives, loyalty may be their finest honed and most marketable skill.

Clearly, personalities and temperament have a lot to do with the differences between the two types of loyalists. One theory of motivation says we are motivated by achievement, affiliation or power. Those driven by achievement seek to excel and appreciate recognition, while those seeking affiliation seek relationships and want approval rather than recognition. [Interestingly, power seekers want neither recognition nor approval from others; they want compliance and agreement.] In the political realm, I would argue that the achievers tend to be the hired guns – they are there to run or participate in a winning campaign or administration. The affiliators are those who thrill at being in the inner circle, a member of a select group. These people are more than hired guns; they are the alter egos of the politician, the die-hard hangers on.

Kelly Rindfleisch appears to be a hired gun, running anybody’s and everybody’s fundraising. She doesn’t go way back with Walker (or at least solely with Walker). In that light, I suspect hers is a coattail loyalty. So can we expect her to make a deal with the prosecutor (assuming a deal is in the offing)? Keep in mind that a coattail loyalty could be quite strong even in times of crisis. The calculus may be self-interest, but self-interest extends not to just the current circumstances but to future considerations as well. Turning on Walker may leave her with few opportunities in the future if she becomes persona non grata in Republican circles. [Having said that, grants of immunity do not seem to taint operatives for long, with Rindfleisch being a case in point.] So her calculus may be more complicated if she believes her reputation as a trustworthy Republican operative is at stake.

I suspect that Darlene Wink is an affiliator and has more of the Kool-Aid loyalty in that she is a true Walker believer and something of a hanger on. Clearly Darlene was worrying about Darlene’s neck when she quickly promised cooperation with prosecutors, but even they are somewhat concerned with the extent of her cooperation given that they are waiting to sentence her only after they see what she delivers. Perhaps she doesn’t know much, so she is not risking the appearance of betrayal. Perhaps she can successfully stonewall and not deliver much. I am wondering though, whether, as an investigation drags on, the affiliators who are true believers may be the most susceptible to spilling the beans. As a group begins to splinter, groupthink crumbles (there is no group after all), so independent thinking may take hold. Affiliators are people who thrive on being members of a group, and once they realize that they can be easily thrown under the bus, they feel bitter and betrayed. Sure they recognized in concept that the loyalty was only one way, but in their heart of hearts they thought their relationship with the leader was special (and that their leader was special) and therefore they could expect protection. And of course, there is no real protection when the leader is at risk.

Tim Russell appears to be the uber Kool-Aid loyalist. He and Walker, in particular, have a very close fraternity-type bond, so it would be surprising if he turned on Walker. But at some point, when he is looking at years in prison, wouldn’t even he be motivated out of self-interest over Walker’s interest? Tim Russell’s past shows him to be a very ethically challenged person, so his calculus is probably impossible to understand or predict. Perhaps promises have been made to make him right after his prison term. Perhaps the bond is indeed so strong that he knows he will be made right after his prison term. But unlike Rindfleisch whose network (and future) extends to other Republicans, Russell’s bond is with Walker, so the calculus of his future may depend primarily on Walker’s future. Maybe he continues to see great things in Walker’s future and is willing to spend a decade or so in prison before rejoining Walker’s quest. Maybe he will take pride in being a martyr for Walker. Now that is Kool-Aid.

It is possible that Walker’s benefactors are assisting these aides in their legal defense, and maybe the aides are very grateful for such assistance. And maybe it’s enough to ensure loyalty. Such assistance does, in fact, reveal a degree of mutuality of loyalty (especially if you allow a great deal of self interest to be tied up with that return loyalty.) But the lawyers are surely advising these aides to act in their self-interest. Can they take the assistance and still spill the beans? In taking the assistance are their lips sealed?

Like many, I anxiously wait for the full details of the John Doe investigation to be revealed. It is not just a political drama being played out but a psychological one as well. To watch a secretive tight-knit group coming unraveled is stunning. Let’s just hope other secretive tight-knit groups become unraveled in the aftermath as well.


  1. Or.....Walker is innocent and this whole loyalty thing only describes machine politics like happens in Chicago. Seems to me the first paragraph could be describing a public union member who defends the unions interests when when the union doesn't take his job interests into account. Tell me there arent some disgruntled union members out there Lena Taylor?
    The guys who stole money should go to prison, did Walker know they did it, maybe, but that was probably the reason he asked for the investigation. Campaigning on government time, get real, like this is anything new to either party. Didnt we go through all of this already with the state legislators? If that's the best they have this is all a waste of time.

    1. Good to see that breaking the law is OK with you. Or is it only OK when your side does it? I've written enough and shown enough in the past few months that shows either Walker is as dirty as any Chicago politician or too stupid to govern. If you choose to close your eyes, your ears and your mind so that you can believe otherwise, well, that's your choice. But you're in for a rude awakening.

    2. What a ridiculous, fallacy-filled argument.

    3. You seem to have convicted him already. I'm hoping the John Doe investigation wont be as biased in their interpretations. But we will see.
      It is your only chance to prevent making him a Martyr if he loses his recall election. He will be known for putting the good of the state ahead of advancing his own political career.

    4. You still haven't answered Capper's main point: Is Walker as dirty as a corrupt Chicago politician or too stupid to govern? There is no third choice.

    5. Choice three: Walker is as dirty as a corrupt Chicago politician, AND Walker is too stupid to govern. We'll have a better idea after the next round of indictments. I'm already picking door #3.

  2. Great "inside baseball," look at the players. Thanks.

  3. It must make Walker haters feel good to make stuff up about him. The biased Biscupic is all you have left and he might be able to pull off a successful recall.

    1. Please, do tell us more about Biscupic's bias.

  4. Thanks Jane Doe. A well written and thoughtful post. Some additional thoughts on your post.

    Some of these individuals already indicted may be wondering if they might be facing additional charges. For example, the criminal complaint State of Wisconsin vs. Brian Pierick uses phrases such as "unnamed co-conspirator," "possibly in a conspiracy with a co-actor," and "the defendant and co-actor."

    The complaint ends with the statement "This complaint does not encompass all known or available information regarding the above described incidents and investigation into these matters remains ongoing."

    The question of third parties assisting in paying for the legal representation has not received much attention yet. While not necessarily applicable to this situation, some information on this topic may be found in the Fordham Law Review article Fee Payments to Criminal Defense Lawyers from Third Parties: Revisiting United States v. Hodge and Zweig.

  5. I don't care who you are, if you are looking at jail time and you feel like you've been thrown under the bus, you are going to talk and cooperate. In the case of Tim Russell, in reading the complaint against him, it seemed to me that the District Attorney could have charged him with more. He wasn't. That seemed to be a clear indication that the District Attorney left the door open to cooperation. I doubt very much Tim Russell is worried about Scott Walker's political future anymore. Time will tell.

  6. 7:02 Bullseye.

  7. Is it possible for Scooter to later pardon those who take the fall ala the Scooter Libby incident? I hope not.

  8. Anon 8:20pm- Interesting that you bring up Scooter Libby, because Walker does seem to come straight out of the George W. Bush school of Public Management. Cronyism, loyalty and right-wing bubble world connections trump compentence and public interest every time for Scottty Dubya of Wisconsin.

    Very good article that goes into just how screwed up things are, and why moving positions from civil service to appointments is a disaster waiting to happen if Walker somehow stays in power after June. Let's make sure that doesn't happen.

  9. Didn't someone recently note the prominence of Executive Clemency on Walker's website? Check his site map for an application for Executive Clemency.

  10. So long as the crimes in question are state crimes and not federal crimes the Governor has nearly unlimited power to pardon as he wishes.

    The pardoning power granted by the Wisconsin Constitution resides solely with the governor, and there are no constitutional standards the governor must follow for granting or denying clemency. The Wisconsin Constitution gives the governor the unfettered discretion to grant or deny (and condition) reprieves, commutations, and pardons for any reason whatsoever.

    This precept is succinctly stated in 59 Am. Jur. 2d Pardon and Parole § 44 (2002):

    "Any executive may grant a pardon for good reasons or bad, or for any reason at all, and the act is final and irrevocable. Even for the grossest abuse of this discretionary power the law affords no remedy; the courts have no concern with the reasons for the pardon. The constitution clothes the executive with the power to grant pardons, and this power is beyond the control, or even the legitimate criticism, of the judiciary. Whatever may have been the reasons for granting a pardon, the courts cannot decline to give it effect, if it is valid upon its face, and no court has the power to review grounds or motives for the action of the executive in granting a pardon, for that would be the exercise of the pardoning power in part, and any attempt of the courts to interfere with the governor in the exercise of the pardoning power would be a manifest usurpation of authority, no matter how flagrant the breach of duty upon the part of the executive." [Footnotes omitted]

    Wisconsin Lawyer Vol 78, no. 2, February 2005.

    Outgoing Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour recently caused controversy with some of his pardons. They were upheld by the Mississippi Supreme court, even though various procedural irregualities were present. One pardon which drew condemnation was that of Harry Bostick.

    When Barbour pardoned Bostick in January, the convicted DUI felon was sitting in an Oxford, Mississippi, jail cell for violating the terms of a previous DUI sentence and was awaiting formal charges from yet another drunken driving accident in October that ended in the tragic death of 18-year-old Charity Smith. Who's at fault in that accident has yet to be determined.

    Bostick's recent history might make one wonder why anyone thought he deserved a pardon.

    Bostick was given a full pardon for a felony drunken driving offense dating from March 2009. That offense was Bostick's third drunken driving arrest in a little more than year.

    The Mississippi Parole Board and Barbour have issued statements saying they didn't know Bostick had another DUI arrest in October. It came after his pardon case had already been reviewed.

    Some federal charges for some of the John Doe participants would be good for more than one reason.