Friday, Jan. 27, 2012

If Walker Didn't Know, His Campaign Sure Did

By Lisa Kaiser
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Here we go again: What did Gov. Scott Walker know and when did he know it?

Much has been made of the email Walker sent from his campaign account (and reprinted in one of the criminal complaints in the John Doe probe) to Tim Russell warning him about fallout from negative media coverage of his staffers campaigning on county time.

“We cannot afford another story like this one,” Walker wrote after county staffer Darlene Wink's pro-Walker blog comments were revealed in the media. “No one can give them any reason to do another story. That means no laptops, no websites, no time away during the work day, etc.”

This email raises tons of questions:

  • What does Walker mean by “laptops”? Is he worried about aides using county-issued laptops for campaign work, or is he concerned about personal laptops being used within county offices for both political and county work?

  • And what about “websites”? Does he mean posting pro-Walker comments on JSonline and other news sites? Or does he mean working on ScottforGov or his official campaign site?

  • Then there's “no time away during the work day, etc.” Speaks volumes.

Now, Walker supporters will say that this lone email shows that he disapproved of what his county/campaign aides were doing on county time.

But it also shows that Walker likely knew that his county/campaign aides were doing more than what got Darlene Wink noticed in the first place: posting pro-Walker comments while on county time.

But I digress.

While Walker and his allies will say that he had no idea what was going on, there's plenty of evidence in the criminal complaints that his campaign staffers were in constant contact with his county aides during the regular workday.

According to the criminal complaint, Rindfleisch had exchanged more than 1,000 emails with Walker campaign staffers, including campaign manager Keith Gilkes, deputy campaign manager Stephan Thompson, communications director Jill Bader and others during regular weekday work hours.

Those three were at the top of Walker's campaign.

Am I supposed to believe that they weren't also checking in with their boss, candidate Walker, about these exchanges?

That Walker had no clue that Rindfleisch, who worked within the tiny confines of the county executive office suite, was communicating with his campaign managers?

Since the DA hasn't provided the contents of these email communications (I have a feeling that they'll turn up in another criminal complaint in this ongoing John Doe investigation) we don't know right now.

But besides Rindfleisch, Darlene Wink was also in contact with Walker's campaign during the work day.

Wink was both Walker's constituent services person at the county and the vice president of the Milwaukee County Republicans.

The complaint details the fundraising and other political work she did during regular work hours and with county resources.

Throughout the complaint, you'll find Wink's chat sessions and emails (conducted at times on a county computer) with Joe Fadness regarding a “Happy Birthday Scott” fundraiser for Walker in the fall of 2009.

Fadness had been Wink's intern between 2003 and 2005.

But at the time of the emails, Fadness was the operations manager for Walker's gubernatorial campaign committee.

Wink also complains to Fadness about the Walker campaign's lack of support for this Happy Birthday fundraiser (page 15 of the complaint). Wink had been told that “Tom” and “Brad Courtney” were supposed to help her but that hadn't materialized. Courtney, the current (and former) state Republican Party chair, had been the grassroots chair for Walker's campaign for governor.

When the “Happy Birthday Scott” fundraiser falls through, Wink again works with Walker campaign operations manager Joe Fadness on a “Holiday Gala” event. They even exchange the script for a robocall, which Walker records.

So Rindfleisch was in constant contact with Walker's top campaign staffers on county time, and Wink was in constant contact with a Walker campaign staffer on county time, and Walker is arguing that he didn't know what was happening?

Drip, drip, drip…

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