As part of the John Doe probe, Tim Russell, a Scott Walker aide, was arrested for charges of embezzling money meant for families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two others were also arrested. Russell faces two felony counts for theft and a misdemeanor, including theft from two campaigns in addition to the money he allegedly embezzled from Operation Freedom.
Walker appointee Brian Pierick, Russell’s domestic partner, is also charged with child enticement for showing his genitals to a child. Kevin Kavanaugh was arrested for theft from funds meant for the children of soldiers who died serving their country. Russell and Kavanaugh allegedly used the stolen money for personal trips and expenses.
Walker was originally handling Operation Freedom through his office as county Executive but changed to a charitable organization later, which was run by Russell.
According to the criminal complaint, Kavanaugh embezzled at least $42,232 from the Military Order of the Purple Heart. That include money that former state Rep. Mark Gundrum, R-New Berlin, donated to the group from his legislative salary while he was serving in Iraq that was intended to benefit wounded veterans.
Russell, who has worked on Walker’s campaigns and served in various positions in county government while Walker was county executive, coordinated the military event for Walker. He was serving as county housing director in August of 2010 when law enforcement seized his computer as part of the probe.
Russell attorney Michael Maistelman declined comment on the charges.
Also arrested and charged was Brian Pierick, 48, who lives with Russell and is his business and domestic partner. He was charged with felony counts of child enticement and one for exposing his genitals. According to the complaint, investigators found evidence to support the charges after confiscating computers in the home the two share in Sun Prairie as part of the probe into the embezzlement allegations.
The charges against Russell, 48, also relate to Operation Freedom as well as theft from the campaigns of two county board candidates according to the criminal complaints.
Is there a bigger low than stealing money from a charity meant to help children of parents who paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country? Not so much.
It should be noted that following the issues with Kavanaugh’s financial handling of the charity under Purple Heart, Walker transferred Operation Freedom money in 2009 to the Legion Post and even though there were no problems, he then transferred it again to Heritage Guard Preservation Society, which is controlled by Russell.
In spite of becoming aware of the financial problems of missing money under Kavanaugh, he was reappointed in 2010 to the county Veterans Service Board.
Walker congratulated his team for bringing the original matter to the attention of authorities, but his decision to give Russell control of Operation Freedom funds isn’t exactly screaming “anti cronyism.”
The on-going John Doe investigation centers around Walker aides, in which the first arrest was made in mid December of 2011. It has already resulted in felony convictions of a Walker donor in a previous matter. Lest conservatives cry partisan attacks, the prosecutor behind the John Doe investigation has gone after Democrats as well, in fact his investigations have landed two Democrats in jail.
Nothing says family values conservatives like stealing money meant for the children of killed soldiers or showing one’s genitals to a child. Vote Republican: They care.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.