As I posted a few days ago, additional charges were filed today in the ongoing John Doe Probe into the goings-on in Scott Walkers office while he was Milwaukee County Executive. These are in addition to the already filed charges that have come out of this case.
What most folks don't realize, though, is that these charges of political activity while using taxpayer funded facilities, equipment, and while being paid to perform official business for a taxpayer funded paycheck was where this John Doe Probe started in the fall of 2010. The investigation has gone in several different directions since then.
That means: this is the tip of the iceberg.
The scope of the investigation can be guessed at in the charges already levied.
Already charged was a businessman and supporter of Scott Walker who sidestepped campaign donation limits by funnelling additional funds to the Walker campaign through his employees. His plea bargain for this felony, in return for no jail time, was to pay the highest fine ever in Wisconsin history.
Now facing trial after being charged last week are 3 men, one of whom was Walkers Deputy Chief of Staff, charged with embezzling funds from a veterans group fund and child enticement.
What began as an investigation into the use of taxpayer resources and official time for political activities has taken several different directions since its inception. More and more wrongdoings are being uncovered. Todays charges are the only ones related to the original scope of the investigation.
Also coming out today is information that these weren't just a few rogue employees doing campaign work or political work on the taxpayers dime. This was an organized, systematic use of taxpayer resources to help Walker and his fellow Republicans:
In addition, Milwaukee County prosecutors expose what they say was a private email network created by top Walker aides to allow them to communicate with one another about campaign and county work without the public or co-workers' knowledge.
"It should be (illegal) because it defeats the public’s right to know," said Bob Dreps, an attorney who handles open records cases for clients such as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "If it’s official business, it belongs in the official system."
So, a private email network to handle political activity which was also funded by Milwaukee County taxpayers.
The existence of the email system was a closely held secret, and was not made known to the county employee responsible for gathering county emails in response to requests for information made by the public, reporters and groups, the complaint said. The secret system used personal Internet email accounts.
"In the course of the investigation, it was learned that a private email network was established and operated out of the County Executive's office and that the private network was used to communicate both political campaign and government-related information to select individuals," Chisholm (Milwaukee County District Attorney) said in a statement.
Comments in talics are mine.
Of course, Walker is in hiding having cancelled a Wausau event scheduled today because of "bad weather". Riiiiiight. Fog with a temperature of 31 degrees in Wausau isn't a credible excuse. And there's no comment coming out of Walkers office regarding these criminal charges that were filed today. His only previous comment on the filing of criminal charges were on the Russell (veterans fund embezzlement and child enticement) where he said he was "disappointed". I can't tell you if he was disappointed that this happened or that it was uncovered.
This is now the third set of charges coming out of the John Doe Probe and the only ones specifically related to the original scope of the investigation (misuse of taxpayer resources and official time). The nature of the previous charges indicates multiple levels of wrongdoing in Walkers Milwaukee County Executive office were uncovered during the year and a half investigation. Since most of his Milwaukee County staff moved with him to Madison for appointment to high level state positions, it can be surmised that they didn't leave the corruption behind in Milwaukee.
Several of Walkers staffers have already been granted immunity in exchange for their testimony.
What makes me irritated is the lack of media coverage of the John Doe Probe during Walkers campaign for governor. Our media also failed to report on Walkers 6 month delay in releasing a Milwaukee County budget report (he delayed the release until after the election). That report showed a huge budget deficit that we in Milwaukee County are still paying for. Had the report come out when it was due, measures could have been taken to mitigate the deficit so it would not have continued to grow. Walker, naturally, crowed during his campaign about his no-deficit management of Milwaukee Countys budget and that release would have exposed that lie.
The willingness of our media to whitewash or ignore these things may be coming to a close. Their latest reports have been less favorable than in the past and may be the reason Walker has been avoiding the Wisconsin media in favor of RW radio show hosts and Faux Newzzz.
It's good that these things are coming to light now, but it would have been preferable for known activities to have been publicized before so many people blindly voted for this clown.
Stay tuned for further developments in the months ahead.
The John Doe Probe is still ongoing.
UPDATE: More information. Article and video here that concisely describe the criminal charges today. Apparantly some of the political work Darlene Wink did when she worked for Walker involved fundraising on the taxpayers dime.
Even more details are here that reveals that it was the activities of former Walker staffer Darlene Wink that led to the investigation. She has reportedly agreed to plead guilty to lesser misdemeanor charges (instead of felony charges) in return for information on activities in the Milwaukee County Executives office.
Another article here (with more pictures).
Democrats say the recent indictments raise questions about possible corruption in the administration. “Right now, all we see is a drip, drip, drip of new indictments. It clearly doesn’t look good, and we need to know. The public needs to know what’s really going on,” State Representative Mark Pocan (D-Madison) said. “This is not a political issue at all. This is a criminal issue, but there’s a lot of people involved in the investigation. There certainly could be political fallout. You start wondering, what did he know, and when did he know it?” Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said.
The Wisconsin State Assembly was back in session Thursday, but the investigation was the issue clouding everything at the Capitol. “We all expect it’s a secret investigation so some of these things have come to light outside of the official avenues. That’s also concerning, and should also be investigated. Anything that comes from the district attorney is going to have to be pursued,” State Representative Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) said.
Update: Video and great interview with interesting details from John Nichols: