It’s been a rough week for Democrats watching their lead in the presidential race tighten after a lackluster debate performance. So can you blame liberals for latching onto the fact that the only politician having a worse week than Barack Obama is their favorite punching bag, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker? Walker’s alleged sin is that he’s been subpoenaed to appear as a witness in the trial of his former deputy chief of staff Kelly Rindfleisch. Rindfleisch is facing four Class I felony counts relating to illegal campaigning on government time — charges that carry up to 3 1/2 years of prison for each.
Why couldn’t she have just blown off work by reading blogs all day like good-hearted people?
But back to Walker — oh my God a subpoena! He must be guilty!
Walker has dismissed the importance of the subpoena by calling it a standard legal maneuver. A clever line since it has the benefit of being entirely true. There’s not much significance to the idea that Walker would be called to testify about claims that his former employee was screwing around on the job. Her boss would be an obvious witness to depose. A subpoena alone doesn’t suggest Walker was involved in illegal behavior, despite non-legally trained liberals salving their debate-inflicted wounds by trashing Walker on DailyKos boards.
On the other hand, there’s talk that Rindfleisch is about to plead guilty and flip on other alleged wrongdoers. The key to that sentence being the implication that there will be “other” alleged wrongdoers. If more senior officials are implicated in this probe, the target moves a little closer to Scott Walker. And that’s certainly not good for him. Especially as the probe keeps expanding to ensnare advisors closer and closer to the governor.
Again, Scott Walker is not actually implicated in any of these charges. But as Esquire put it:
[I]in the words of Lamar Parmentel, the crooked New Orleans lawyer in The Big Easy, Walker’s old office in Milwaukee was “a marvelous environment for coincidence.”
Yeah, people writing that sort of stuff pretty much sum up why it isn’t a positive political development to have former close friends and aides facing prison time.
To recap the whole case, Scott Walker used to be the Milwaukee County Executive and his tenure inspired the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office to kick off a secret probe into shenanigans at the office called the John Doe probe. Today the probe continues and has moved to the state level.
So far, three former Walker aides have been charged in the probe. Rindfleisch allegedly campaigned for an Oregon Lt. Governor candidate on government time. Kevin Kavanaugh, Walker’s appointee to run the Veteran’s Commission, stands accused of four felonies arising from the alleged embezzling of over $42,000 from “Operation Freedom” which was a Veteran’s Commission program to provide for the families of casualties of war. And Walker is also on the witness list for the upcoming trial of Timothy Russell, another former deputy chief of staff who allegedly embezzled from campaigns and from “Operation Freedom” in order to vacation in Hawaii and the Caribbean.
It strikes me that stealing from the families of Vets has the worst possible optics ever. There are other groups to embezzle from, you know. Just rip off the DMV!
But I’m looking at this case a little differently. Put aside the idea that Walker did anything wrong for a second. If the people Walker hired really did blow off their government jobs while mishandling public funds, maybe that explains his pronounced distrust of public sector workers.
Joe Patrice is the author of Recess Appointment, a blog about political rhetoric, and he’ll be dropping in occasionally to write about the intersection of law and politics. To answer the question that you’re probably about to ask, he got his J.D. at NYU and spent ten years working at a Biglaw firm and a white-collar defense boutique. His favorite word is sesquipedalian.