Wisconsin inquiry could affect Gov. Scott Walker’s ambitions.
Even as Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin looks ahead to 2016 and a possible presidential bid, his political past as Milwaukee County executive has come back to haunt him.
A release of 27,000 e-mails and hundreds of court documents on Wednesday portrays Walker, a Republican, as having presided over an office where aides used personal computers and e-mail to conceal that they were mixing government and campaign business. The conduct of campaign work on government time led to the criminal convictions of two aides and several others. Walker, who has for years denied wrongdoing, was never charged.
The messages showed how actively Walker’s campaign coordinated with county workers in 2009 and 2010, when he was running for governor. They shared e-mails about the proper wording of campaign news releases. They exchanged e-mails on county time promoting a birthday fundraising event for Walker’s campaign.
Some used private e-mail accounts to communicate with Walker, the messages indicate.
And plans for a daily conference call, the newly released e-mails show, was to include members from both his campaign for governor and his county executive staff.
In one message to campaign staffers and county executive workers, Walker’s then-chief of staff, Thomas Nardelli, wrote that Walker wished to hold the 8 a.m. calls “to review events of the day or of a previous or future day, so we can better coordinate sound, timely responses, so we all know what the others are doing.”
As the messages were made public, national Democratic groups tried to draw comparisons to Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, another possible Republican presidential candidate, and the scandal surrounding the George Washington Bridge.
Republicans dismissed the matter as largely political gamesmanship, noting that prosecutors had chosen not to charge Walker with any crimes.
The newly released e-mails as well as hundreds of previously sealed court documents were part of a case involving Kelly M. Rindfleisch, who was Walker’s deputy chief of staff in the county executive’s office and who pleaded guilty in 2012 to one count of felony misconduct in public office after being accused of performing political work for a lieutenant governor hopeful on county time.
A spokesman for Walker, who is seeking re-election to a second term as governor this fall, said Wednesday that the governor remained focused on creating jobs and lowering taxes for Wisconsin families, not on the newly public messages from an investigation that was, officials in Wisconsin say, completed last year.