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Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012

Send Lawyers, Guns and Money!

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"Send lawyers, guns and money! Dad, get me out of this!"

That's actually the late singer-songwriter Warren Zevon, but it could just as well be the possibly soon-to-be-former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

The first shoe to fall in the long-running John Doe investigation into corruption within Walker's administration as Milwaukee County executive turned out to be a big, muddy combat boot—really, stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the families of veterans wounded or killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Plus there was an ugly little side story involving gay pornography and child enticement.

The first felony charges issued by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm against two Walker appointees and the gay partner of one of them who worked in Walker's campaigns pushed some hot political buttons not even the governor's biggest opponents suspected.

Tim Russell, formerly Walker's deputy chief of staff, was charged with stealing more than $21,000 from a charitable event called Operation Freedom, allegedly set up by Walker to operate a free event honoring military families at the Milwaukee County Zoo.

Russell is accused of using the embezzled money not only to vacation with his domestic partner in Hawaii and the Caribbean, but also spending some of it perhaps for political benefit, paying for travel to Atlanta to strategize with right-wing Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain.

Kevin Kavanaugh, appointed by Walker to the Milwaukee County Veterans Service Commission, was the first Walker operative accused of stealing from Operation Freedom. He is charged with diverting more than $42,000 from veterans' families.

From One Alleged Crook to Another

The spin from Walker apologists is that Walker himself is the one who asked the district attorney to investigate the financial irregularities. But the timeline shows that is only partially true.

Operation Freedom was created in 2003 after Walker became county executive. It's true that in 2008 the county executive's office became concerned about missing funds under Kavanaugh.

After briefly turning financial control of Operation Freedom over to the Alonzo Cudworth American Legion post, Walker's chief of staff, Tom Nardelli, asked the district attorney in mid-2009 to look into Kavanaugh's financial discrepancies.

But in October 2009, Walker moved control of Operation Freedom even closer to himself by transferring $19,000 in funds and financial oversight to Heritage Guard Preservation Society, an organization headed by Russell, his deputy chief of staff and a member of his inner political circle.

What Walker really did was transfer the operation from one accused crook to another, one with even closer ties to him personally.

The complaint against Russell says Heritage Guard was always a fraudulent operation, with three other county employees listed as fake officers and directors without their knowledge.

During 2010, the year of Walker's gubernatorial campaign, according to the district attorney, Russell was stealing more than 50 cents of every dollar donated to benefit veterans' families.

If that isn't enough to outrage self-proclaimed flag-waving conservatives who have supported Walker, homophobic right-wingers should be apoplectic over his ties to alleged gay sexual predators.

The sex charges resulted from the FBI's seizure of computers and iPhones from Russell and his domestic partner, Brian Pierick.

The embezzlement investigation uncovered a lengthy series of explicitly salacious text messages between Pierick and a 17-year-old boy after the boy advertised online soliciting an older man with which to exchange "father and son" sexual fantasies.

Pierick emailed the boy a photograph of him and Russell, offering to play the boy's "two daddies" in person. Pierick solicited and received a sexually explicit photograph from the boy, who claimed to be "almost 19" but also revealed he was still in high school.

The exchange shows escalating attempts by Pierick offering a collection of gay pornography to lure the boy into meeting the two men. Pierick suggested they could initiate the boy into gay sex in the back of Russell's van. The boy told investigators he became fearful and never met the men.

An additional little political tidbit from the seized computers is that the online identity "Walker04" was used to access gay pornography sites. Think of it as a little sneak preview of what "Walker10" would do to the state.

Archconservative loyalists will be sorely challenged to absolve Walker of any responsibility for all the dishonest and disturbing actions of those around him. But you can bet a lot of them will try.

A growing number of others will see an escalating pattern of state corruption, with Walker openly destroying laws for the financial benefit of cronies and nakedly unethical Supreme Court justices looking the other way.

Not even the billionaire Koch brothers, notorious funders of extreme right-wing causes, may be able to fly in enough lawyers, guns and money to save their boy this time.