The primary motivation for a campaign to recall Scott Walker from the governor’s office was that a significant portion of those who voted for him in the first place felt betrayed by his actual conduct in office. But according to information being gleefully emailed around the state from Democratic Party of Wisconsin email addresses, his administration may, in little over a year, have racked up a record of criminal corruption as well. Fifteen felony charges and three misdemeanor complaints have been filed against six of Walker’s closest associates.
One criminal complaint filed by prosecutors, according to Maggie Brickerman, the party’s state executive director, charges a secret email network set up twenty-five feet from the official governor’s office, as an end-run around open records laws, used among other things to do political campaigning and fundraising on taxpayer’s time. It wouldn’t be the first time; legislative leaders of both parties have been tried and convicted of similar misdeeds. But, for a governor subject to recall by the voters who elected him, to be doing this so flagrantly at the top of the executive branch, would take such venal corruption to a new level.
Kelly Rindfleisch, former Deputy Chief of Staff, and Darlene Wink, former Director of Constituent Services, have been charged with campaign finance violations, sending out campaign emails and organizing fundraisers while on the clock as state employees, time paid for by taxpayers to conduct public business. Tim Russell, former Deputy Chief of Staff, has been arrested on charges of stealing thousands of dollars intended for wounded veterans and families of military service members who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kevin Kavanaugh, a Walker appointee to the Veteran Service Commission, has been charged with five felonies, all revolving around theft of funds from the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Operation Freedom.
It can hardly be said that the arrest of Brian Pierick, former operator of ScottWalker.org, for felony enticement of a child, is related to either the Walker campaign or the conduct of state business. But the other arrests — albeit each individual is entitled to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty in court — outline a possibility that the Walker administration views the state as an oyster bed to be tapped, rather than regarding state business as an opportunity for public service.
When he took office, Walker began concentrating unprecedented power into his own hands as governor, eliminating the independence from day to day politics of such agencies as the Department of Natural Resources. Money and power… power and money… Walker may have ambitions to wield the power assembled by the late Huey P. Long in Louisiana, although without any pretense to Sharing the Wealth. Replacing him in the upcoming recall election might well nip a nascent bid for dictatorship in the bud.