With Christie pretty well neutralized, it’s time to turn to the GOP’s other successful blue-state governor and try to cripple him before 2016 too. Might as well have it on your radar now as you’ll be hearing about it sporadically, even though nothing will come of it. The scandal this time is the fact that, back when Walker was Milwaukee County Executive and running for governor, some of his county staff communicated with his campaign staff during county office hours, while on the taxpayer’s dime. It got to the point where a separate wireless router was installed in the county office so that they could converse without any trail being left on the state’s computer servers. Six people were convicted before the investigation was closed. Walker wasn’t one of them, and in fact was never charged. All of which is old news — so much so that his Democratic opponent ran an attack ad against him about all of this back during the doomed recall effort of 2012.
But it’s back again this week because 27,000 e-mails of one of the aides who was convicted have now been released and, well, there’s got to be a smoking gun proving that Walker condoned the secret wireless network in there somewhere — even though prosecutors went through the e-mails themselves, of course, and declined to charge him with anything. At the very least, if they can prove bad behavior by Walker himself, lefties are going to accuse him of running the same sort of poorly managed rogue operation as his pal Christie did in Bridgegate. Why they think this will hurt him when it didn’t stop him from beating the recall effort, I don’t know, but maybe they think there’s a certain osmosis effect at work. Christie and Walker are often compared to each other vis-a-vis 2016; if the national public is convinced Christie’s crooked, maybe they can build that into an “all these guys are crooked” perception.
Some used private email accounts to communicate even, apparently, with Mr. Walker, according to an email from the county’s administrative director, who at one point advised a colleague to do the same, adding imprecisely, “Consider youself now in the ‘inner circle.’ ” And plans for a daily conference call, the newly released emails show, included members from both his campaign for governor and his county executive staff…
Questions remain over how much Mr. Walker knew about activities of his staff. In the email from the county’s administrative director, Cynthia Archer, suggesting that a colleague use a personal email account and join the “inner circle,” she wrote: “I use this private account quite a bit to communicate with SKW and Nardelli,” apparently referring to Mr. Walker and Mr. Nardelli.
But there were also signs among the documents that Mr. Walker had called for a stop to some of the activities. At one point in May 2010, Ms. Wink resigned after allegations that she had posted pro-Walker comments on The Journal Sentinel website while at her county job. Mr. Walker sent an email to another aide, writing of Ms. Wink: “I talked to her at home last night. Feel bad. She feels worse. We cannot afford another story like this one. No one can give them any reason to do another story. That means no laptops, no websites, no time away during the workday, et cetera.”
Is that what a guy writes when he’s condoning private business being conducted on county time or is that what he writes when he wants to limit it? See now why that attack ad in 2012 didn’t work?
Right Wisconsin has a list of reasons why this is a big fat zero. There’s actually a second investigation, this time into Walker’s recall campaign staff, that’s under way, possibly related to coordinating with outside conservative groups. (“John Doe investigations” in Wisconsin are kept secret until the findings are released.) That one’s probably going nowhere too, though: A judge quashed several subpoenas served on conservative orgs last month because they failed to allege any violations of campaign finance law. Walker’s going to win again, just as he always seems to do against the left.
As for the Christie parallel, lefties have two problems here that they don’t have with Bridgegate. One: Bridgegate is still under investigation. There’s a persistent element of suspense that Bridget Kelly or David Wildstein will turn on Christie and produce the smoking gun that places him at the center of it. There’s no risk of that with Walker. This is old news, which is why it didn’t hurt him in the recall. Two: Bridgegate resonates not because Christie’s staff went rogue on him right under his nose but because the petty retaliation involved lends a dark element to Christie’s “tough guy” routine. He presents himself as the no-nonsense leader who’ll get in the faces of the public’s enemies, but closing the bridge lanes hurt the public and made the no-nonsense shtick seem more like bullying. There’s no similar wound to Walker’s persona from this e-mail business. His staff crossed the line between campaign and official business, but that line is hazy for most politicos even when they manage to remain on the right side of the law. I’m trying to imagine the Democratic machine running a campaign accusing him of corruption on these grounds in 2016 when his opponent, in all likelihood, would be the Clintons. Suggested slogan: “America can’t afford scandals in the White House. Hillary 2016!”