Sunday, December 9, 2012

Walkergate: The Year In Review

There are many things starting to come to a head in regards to Walkergate.  But before we can go into all that, I felt it would be useful to look at what we already know, so that what comes can make more sense for the gentle reader.

In May 2010, Darlene Wink, who was Director of Constituent Affairs for then Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, was caught leaving comments on JSOnline and other blogs. The comments were either to support Walker in his gubernatorial campaign or to rip into his opponents.

The following week, Tim Russell, formerly Walker's Deputy Chief of Staff and then Director of the Division of Housing, was filmed doing campaign work while traveling the state with Walker, supposedly to promote tourism in Milwaukee County.

It was at this same time that the first conviction of Walkergate came. William E. Gardner, president and CEO of Wisconsin and Southern Rail admitted to giving illegal donations to Walker's campaign.

In August 2010, Russell's county office was raided, with Sheriff Deputies removing boxes of papers, his computers and his county-issued Blackberries.

In September, deputies from Milwaukee County and Dane County, as well as FBI agents, executed search warrants on several people's homes. Some of these people include Cindy Archer, Walker's head of Administrative Services and Fran McLaughlin, his spokeswoman.

For a more detailed accounting of the early days of Walkergate, I would refer the gentle reader to "An Introduction to Walkergate" and "Scott Walker's Other Big Problem."

The day after my story in the Shepherd Express was published, Tim Russell, Brian Pierick and Kevin Kavanaugh were arrested and charged with various crimes which stemmed from the investigation. Three weeks later, wink and Kelly Rindfleisch were also arrested and charged.

During the year, there were many twists and turns which revealed many things, not only about the five people who were arrested, but about others who were implicated in various crimes.

Tim Russell was charged with embezzling money from a veterans fund, Operation Freedom, which in turn turned out to be a thinly veiled front for a campaign stunt.

Among the things that were revealed during his stalling tactics was that not only was he stealing money, but he was also active in campaigning for Walker, including the installation of a secret router in the executive's suite, in order to avoid having anything disclosed via an open records request.

It also came out that even if one were to give Walker credit for starting the investigation by reporting missing money from the veterans campaign fund, Walker quickly became uncooperative and was stonewalling the investigation. I can't help but wonder if Walker hadn't done that, if he might have gotten away with all of the corruption.

Russell eventually took a plead deal and will sentenced in January.

Kelly Rindfleisch was charged with illegal politicking while on the taxpayer dime, in a government building, and using government resources. In her thousands of emails, she boasted about how half her time was spent working on the campaign.

During her trial, we gained a larger sense of just how far the corruption spread. It was very much like the caucus scandals that rocked the state a decade earlier, but worse.

It turned out that not only was Walker's county staff doing campaign work on county time, but that the campaign was actually running his county executive office. The campaign staff were calling the shots, even to the point of telling the county staff to destroy legal documents that might have reflected poorly on Walker, such as the records regarding the tragedy at O'Donnell Park.

It was from her case that we learned that there was not just collaboration and collusion with the campaign staff, but that there was a statewide network of contacts with most of the state's Republicans, including Brett Davis, Scott Fitzgerald, Robin Vos and others.

It was also from Rindfleisch's case that we learned that there was going to be more. There's always more, such as the fact that not only was Walker aware of what was happening, he was an active participant and directing things.

Rindfleisch also took a plea deal and was sentenced to six months jail time and two years parole, but that order was stayed while she appeals the plea deal.

Darlene Wink was also charged with illegal campaigning while on county time. She quickly entered a plea deal and was ready and willing to testify against her cohorts in crime. Her sentencing date has been delayed a number of times as her friends kept stalling their cases. Her sentencing date is now in January.

Kevin Kavanaugh, who Walker appointed to the board of Veterans Affairs, was convicted of stealing money from the same veterans fund Russell stole from. He was recently sentenced to do 30 months in jail and 30 months parole.

Brian Pierick was Russell's domestic and business partner. He's been charged with child enticement, which was discovered only because of the investigation into Russell's crimes. He goes on trial in late January.

While the bulk of the investigation and subsequent court cases have been focused on illegal campaigning, it should be noted this is nowhere near the only part of the investigation that involves Walker and his staffs.

Walker and his crew are known to have engaged in bid rigging and pay for play types of stunts.

These, along with the illegal politicking, leaves room for many more charges against many more people.

Walkergate is far from being over, as we shall soon learn.  Just as we will learn who is John Doe...


  1. Darlene Wink's sentencing is in January (think it's probably a typo above).

  2. Thanks for this review. The public would benefit from broader distribution your summary.

  3. The court records states her sentencing hearing is scheduled for January 10, 2013 at 01:30 pm. Unless Capper knows something that the rest of us gentle readers are not aware of ;)

  4. No, just a mere typo. One of two, actually. Both have been corrected now.

  5. I agree that Vos and Fitzgerald may be dragged into Walkergate via their "off-the-public-record" emails with Walker & staff. In fact, it would not surprise me if Reince Priebus were to fall too, given that his former college roomie, Vos, has been funneling millions of dollars of taxpayer money to Reince's law firm, Michael Best Friedrich and coordinating Vos's "Jim Crow" voter suppression activities and redistricting gerrymandering. I think this goes much higher than Scott Walker, personally.

    1. Actually, I'd be surprised if either Vos or Fitzgerald got pulled into it. They're fringe players at best.

      Priebus is more likely.

    2. Reince Priebus did such a great job for the Republicans this last election I'd like to see him made GOP chairman for life.

  6. Per MJS it looks like Walker and WEDC are caught up in another pay to play scandal. This time the Feds are involved. How long will it be before the FBI raids the Capitol and WEDC?

    The Cons may as well walk around with "Lock Me Up" signs on their backs. Master criminals they are not.