You might have thought it was enough that the John Doe investigation into Republican Governor Scott Walker’s time as County Executive and his campaign at the time for Governor has resulted in convictions against six individuals closely associated with the Governor. But no. There’s more.
Aside from campaigning on the taxpayer dime, secretive email systems, violations of campaign finance laws, destruction of digital data, and using taxpayer funded time to spread online favorable propaganda about the governor, Walker’s dealings with a land deal are also of issue.
Milwaukee prosecutors are looking into bid rigging that may have taken place around the county’s efforts to lease public or private office space for the Department of Aging.
Wisc Politics reports, “Frank Tuerkheimer, an emeritus law professor at the University of Wisconsin and former member of the Watergate prosecution staff, said reports today about the John Doe looking into potential bid rigging in Milwaukee County means the investigation has taken a turn of “an even more serious magnitude.”
Involved in this deal is long time Walker friend and campaign adviser, John Hiller. Their friendship goes back to college where Walker dropped out after being found guilty of illegal campaigning. Hiller was the treasurer of Walker’s county and gubernatorial campaigns, and the Journal Sentinel notes that Hiller left that position in May of 2011, “amid the John Doe investigations.”
Hiller had a financial stake in the county real estate contract, and emails not yet released to the public are at issue. Walker stayed in the loop during the entire bidding process for the lease contract. Sources say the emails raise a lot of questions and one referred to them as a “bombshell” while another can only excuse it as “legally inconclusive”. Neither sound like a ringing endorsement of the then County Executive’s behavior. In the end, Hiller’s firm did not get the 3 million dollar contract it had held since 2005.
The Walker administration eventually put out a request for proposals in the summer of 2010. The county rejected all 11 bids for a variety of reasons, including price. Reuss representatives then tried to negotiate both short- and long-term deals with the county in a failed effort to keep the county agency at their complex, but the Walker administration eventually decided to move the department into the county’s Marcia Coggs Center at 1322 W. Vliet St. later that year.
During the complicated process, Hiller – one of Walker’s closest confidants – was working behind the scenes for the owners of the Reuss facility, just as he had in 2005, the Journal Sentinel has reported.
In an email sent presumably to Walker in November 2010 – the recipient’s name is redacted but the context suggests it went to the governor – Hiller raised the issue directly.
“I don’t want to sound like Reince, :),” Hiller wrote, referring to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, “but I want to be viewed as part of the upper level group making the decisions along with Grebe Whitbourn etc. I assume that this is an assumption but during the discussion it was not presented that way. This is helpful to me especially if I am not going into Admin. I would like to be the one, along with Grebe, making initial calls to people and then turning them over to Matthews/WHitbourn.”
The paper recited what embarrassingly sounds like the press release of the Wisconsin Republican Party in their endorsement of Walker, saying disagreements over policy are not a reason to recall an elected official. That is exactly the argument of conservatives and the Republican Party in their media appearances.
Such an opinion also requires willful blindness to the many other issues surrounding Walker’s leadership style. At the very least, at issue is the fact that the Governor did not ever say he was going to dismantle collective bargaining when running for office, and he is on tape admitting that he did it in order to destroy the Democratic Party in the state. He has also admitted that killing collective bargaining did nothing for the budget, which was his stated reason for destroying it. We don’t even need to get into the way the law was passed in the dead of night, locking out Democrats and without proper notice.
The results of the bid-rigging investigation won’t come out before the recall, so Wisconsinites will have to vote on the inaccurate job numbers (still not healthy) provided by Walker or his lie that he did not forget to tell voters his intentions regarding collective bargaining or that he is using the budget crisis to dismantle the Democratic Party in Wisconsin by breaking up union power (admitted on tape).
But when Wisconsinites go to the polls, they should ask themselves, if Walker lied to you while running for Governor, and he did, why would you believe him now when he says he has no intention of turning Wisconsin into a Right to Work state? After all, he is on tape admitting that as a goal.
The Governor himself is still walking free, but he did put 60,000 dollars into a defense fund, something an elected official can’t do in Wisconsin unless they are under investigation. He has hired criminal defense attorneys as well as real estate attorneys (and now we know why he hired them).
The John Doe investigation is hardly a partisan matter; the lead in the investigation has gone after both Democrats and Republicans. And it’s hardly Democrats faults that factual evidence and confessions have led to so many convictions, while other Walker aides have been granted immunity for agreeing to assist and testify.
Former AG Peg Lautenschlager added that the latest fact to come out of the county investigation is beginning to paint a picture of the overall problems under Walker in Milwaukee County, and that voters need to “piece things together as best we can prior to the election.”
“The governor must have had involvement in these ongoing allegations,” Lautenschlager said.
It’s systemic criminal corruption any way you look at it. It’s not Walker’s first run in with illegal campaigning and it won’t be his last. Just look at the games going on in this recall – publicly outing teachers for signing petitions is just one example of the low level his associates will stoop.
The bad news is if Walker wins this recall, it means that propaganda works over facts and that there is no crime Machiavellian Republicans can’t forgive and forget in service of their agenda. It also means that Republicans will be rewarded for using leadership to destroy their political opponents instead of actually governing.
Just imagine if Democrats got into office and targeted firefighters (a usual Republican union) or other folks who vote Republican (police, often). Can you imagine the cries of anti-patriotism? Walker has demonized teachers. Demonized them for no reason other than they represent two things that are politically bad for him and the Republican Party: education and unions.
Walker refuses to answer questions about the investigation, and when it’s raised by his opponents he claims it’s an attempt to distract from the issues and that he has been instructed by investigators not to answer questions about it, but three former prosecutors say that is not true.
Walker must then feel that criminal activities are not of issue for his campaign, his work for taxpayers, his use of taxpayer money, or his style of leadership. His attitude seems to be how dare you question him, and the response to that in a democracy should be, how dare you avoid our questions, sir.
It’s not as if these are rumors. There are convictions surrounding Walker and promises of immunity to his closest aides. It’s up to voters to look at the Governor’s track record and ask them, do you want to cast a vote for Rod Blagojevich?
The irony of the willful obstruction of the Wisconsin Republican Party and what appears to be their public relations press is that this will not end well for the Republican Party. Endorsing Walker at this point is casting their lot with a Rod Blagojevich, and the stench and fall out will be ongoing. It will also hurt the party a lot more if Walker is still in office when it happens.
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.