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Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013

A Who’s-Who of Walker’s Campaign Aides Who Were Calling the Shots

New John Doe emails reveal political operation

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New emails released from the long-running John Doe investigation into Scott Walker’s inner circle of campaign and county aides have shed more light on how tightly Walker’s political and official duties were connected.

Walker and his high-level county aides routinely used their personal emails and a private Internet network to communicate with his gubernatorial campaign aides and evade public records scrutiny. Walker’s campaign aides often directed his county staffers on official matters, including managing information related to the 2010 O’Donnell Park tragedy.

A few of Walker’s county aides were prosecuted for misconduct in office and embezzlement or given immunity from prosecution.

But Walker’s political aides paid no such price for their actions.

In fact, they’re doing quite well as political operatives.

The political aides copied on Walker’s official emails include:

R.J. Johnson: Johnson, a former executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, joined the Friends of Scott Walker in April 2009 as a “general consultant.”

Johnson has a long history with the very conservative Club for Growth-Wisconsin and he and Deb Jordahl, his partner in a consulting business, appeared frequently as representatives of the Club for Growth in 2011, after Walker became governor. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign estimated that the group spent $9.1 million in the 2011 and 2012 recall elections to support Republican candidates, including Walker.

Keith Gilkes: Gilkes, Walker’s campaign manager, seized control of the situation immediately after a slab of concrete from the O’Donnell Park parking structure fell on Jared Kellner, his mom and friend. Gilkes became Walker’s chief of staff as governor. He resigned in October 2011, as the John Doe was heating up. Politico reported earlier this year that Gilkes is serving as a senior adviser to Walker’s 2014 re-election effort.

Jill Bader: Walker’s campaign spokeswoman didn’t weigh in a lot in the O’Donnell Park emails that were released to the public, but she was certainly copied on them. Bader left Wisconsin and is working as the communications director of the Republican State Leadership Committee.

Jim Villa: Villa is a longtime political and county aide connected to Walker. Villa is credited with helping to run Walker’s 2004 re-election bid and was Walker’s chief of staff at the county on and off from 2002 to 2007. At the time of the O’Donnell Park tragedy, Villa was working as the president of the Commercial Association of Realtors Wisconsin. He also ran a lobbying firm called the Markesan Group, which was involved in a controversial bid to secure office space for county workers in 2005 and 2010.

Supporting Players: Others making cameo appearances in the O’Donnell Park emails are Joe Fadness, then working as Walker’s field director and now the executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin; political consultant and real estate developer John Hiller, Walker’s campaign treasurer; Walker’s deputy campaign manager, Stephan Thompson; Patrick Hogan, then working as a personal aide to Walker, who recently made headlines when he filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Board about potential Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke’s phone survey; and longtime Walker fundraiser Mary Stitt.

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