I’ve been pretty quiet on “Walkergate,” in part because I haven’t always kept up with every twist and turn of the investigation, and in part because other people do the coverage so well.
But also in part because I am by nature a cautious blogger who likes to see all the pieces before making a conclusion. All along in this mess, I have been thinking not that now-Governor (then-County Executive) Scott Walker was an evil conniving bastard, but rather that he made some pretty poor choices about whom he surrounded himself with–a bunch of people so utterly devoted to furthering Walker’s career that they would skirt or break the rules to help his cause.
In other words, the Walkergate scandal would end up being reflective of Walker’s bad judgment much more so than Walker’s culpability in any illegal activity. And I’ve been fine with that; I’ve said all along that Scott Walker is not stupid, but arrogant, and every revelation but one so far fits that narrative.
Here’s the one:
This is from the Rindfleisch complaint (pdf). It’s the email Scott Walker sent from his campaign email account (presumably from his campaign BlackBerry, rather than a county-funded phone) the morning after Darlene Wink resigned her county post when she was outed by Dan Bice for posting pro-Walker comments to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website during the work day. “Her” is Wink.
That is not the disturbing part for me though. Nor am I disturbed by the “we can’t get caught again” aspect of the email (as opposed to a more appropriate “no one can do this, it’s illegal” flavor).
Rather, it’s the combination of two things. One, as Jud Lounsbury has pointed out, is that Walker sent this email to Tim Russell, who was at the time Director of Housing for Milwaukee County. Russell, who was being given a direct order here–“no laptops, no websites, no time away during the workday”–had zero supervisory authority over the county employees who are now in trouble for campaigning, Wink and Rindfleisch. (Indeed, Rindfleisch seems to have been hired–
by whom, we don’t know UPDATE: according to the complaint, by Russell himself–expressly to campaign, surprising her actual boss Tom Nardelli when she showed up for her first day of work and claiming later than half of her job was “policy for the campaign.”)
If Russell was not the boss of Wink and Rindfleisch, and instead worked in a completely different building in a completely different department, how did Scott Walker know that Russell was the one to quash the political activity at work? There is no other plausible explanation other than that Walker was aware of Russell’s role in generating campaign product on work time, and that Walker knew Russell was still organizing that activity.
Bice’s story on Wink does say that Wink was using her own laptop, so there’s a possible out for Walker’s “no laptops” phrase in the email. But here’s the second thing that bugs me about the email: “no websites.” It’s been well-documented that “scottforgov.com,” a pro-Walker site suspected of having been run by campaign insiders, shut down the same day Bice outed Wink and Scott Walker sent that email.
Walker tells Russell, “no websites,” and scottforgov.com disappears? Come on.
Walker hasn’t been charged with a single thing, and may never be. But even absent charges, how is this email not a smoking gun? How is this email not damning and damaging? Contained within it is everything that Walker and his supporters all along have been adamant was not there: Walker had clear knowledge of campaign activity being done in county facilities on county time before Wink was caught, knew who was running it–Tim Russell–and knew just how far their work went, including the scottforgov.com site.
I don’t want to be the one running around claiming conspiracy and cover-up and dancing like my hair’s on fire. I’m not that guy, and I’ve never been that guy. But until and unless someone can find a simpler, more Occam’s Razor-y explanation of that email that doesn’t leave Walker complicit in the illegal activities of the people working 25 feet away from him all day every day, exchanging emails during the workday with his top campaign staff, then I guess I am that guy.
This email should end Walker’s career. Now.