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Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012

John Doe Defendant Kelly Rindfleisch Kept Her Ties to Scott Walker After Leaving Her County Job

Will appeal her six-month jail sentence

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Last week, Kelly Rindfleisch, Scott Walker’s deputy chief of staff when he was Milwaukee County executive, was sentenced to six months in jail and three years of probation for working on Republican lieutenant governor candidate Brett Davis’s campaign while working within Walker’s executive suite in the Milwaukee County Courthouse.

Rindfleisch was part of what prosecutors called “The Campaign Group,” a mix of Walker’s political and county staff who spoke on a conference call each morning and collaborated on political strategy and policy, an ethically questionable link between Walker’s gubernatorial campaign and his county aides.

But that was not the most egregious revelation to emerge last week from the John Doe investigation into Walker’s county aides.

Evidence presented by Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf asserted that Rindfleisch worked for Walker’s campaign and was paid up to $90,000 by the Republican Party of Wisconsin and Walker’s allies after she left her county job and her home was searched by investigators on Nov. 1, 2010, and was charged with felonies in 2012.

“She would ultimately work as a fundraiser for the [Walker] campaign through at least the time she was publicly charged,” Landgraf wrote in his sentencing memo. “Once publicly charged, Ms. Rindfleisch was employed by [electronic communications firm] Media Systems Affiliates…. MSA did almost a half-million dollars worth of business with the Friends of Scott Walker in 2012. Ms. Rindfleisch has no known Information Technology skills.”

And, Landgraf argued, those payments may be why Rindfleisch has offered no helpful information in the long-running John Doe investigation into Walker’s county administration.

 

Rindfleisch Too Loyal to Walker and Davis to Provide Evidence?

According to evidence provided by Republican operatives R.J. Johnson and Andrea Boom, during 2011 Rindfleisch worked for the Friends of Scott Walker—Walker’s gubernatorial campaign committee. Johnson testified that there was some discussion about whether Walker’s campaign or the Republican Party would pay Rindfleisch for her fundraising work.

According to a report by Investigator Robert G. Stelter provided to the court, Rindfleisch’s bank account received $2,103.97 in a “payroll” deposit from the Republican Party of Wisconsin on Jan. 14, 2011. The Republican Party deposits continued every two weeks in similar amounts during 2011, according to Stelter. That would total more than $50,000 annually.

The Republican Party payroll payments stopped on Jan. 13, 2012, Stelter’s report states, two weeks before Rindfleisch was charged on Jan. 26, 2012.

After the Republican Party money dried up, Rindfleisch began receiving payments from the Brookfield-based Media Systems Affiliates totaling $34,391.68 between January and August 2012. Walker’s campaign paid MSA more than $420,000 during the campaign cycle.

But Rindfleisch’s attorney Franklyn Gimbel defended his client, saying that she worked for the Walker inauguration committee for a month or two, and then for MSA doing web design and media relations work not specifically related to Walker.

Gimbel said she has used her own savings for her “multiple tens of thousands” of dollars in legal fees. He said Rindfleisch would definitely appeal last week’s sentence and argued that “she was made the poster child for the John Doe and she’s not a big fish.”

In his memo, Landgraf acknowledged that Rindfleisch provided one piece of information for the prosecution of Tim Russell, Walker’s longtime political and county aide. Russell is charged with two felonies and one misdemeanor for allegedly embezzling more than $20,000 from a veterans’ organization supported by Walker. According to a report on Tuesday, Russell has reached a plea deal, but no details have emerged. A hearing is set for Thursday.

Landgraf’s memo states, “It is my judgment that [Rindfleisch’s] loyalties rested, and continue to rest, with those who have supported her since November 1, 2010… the Republican Party of Wisconsin and the Friends of Scott Walker.”

Gimbel, of course, disagrees.

Landgraf wrote that Rindfleisch—whom he called a “political operative”—was so loyal to Walker and the Republicans that prosecutors didn’t even approach her to provide evidence against Davis, her former boss and Walker’s preferred candidate for lieutenant governor in 2010.

Upon becoming governor, Walker appointed Davis to be in charge of the state’s Medicaid program, where he receives a $108,000 salary.

Landgraf even alleged that Rindfleisch chose to plead guilty to one felony in Milwaukee County, rather than continuing to fight to move her trial to Columbia County, where she lives, because her appeal would have introduced into the record “many (indeed thousands) of private emails” exchanged between her and the campaigns of Davis and Walker.

Attorney Gimbel said Rindfleisch was debriefed and gave prosecutors all of the information she had. He also disagreed with Landgraf’s assertion about the change of venue.