Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

Can Democrats be taken seriously?


Can Democrats be taken seriously?

Walker emerges from probe unscathed

Waukesha Freeman March 7, 2013 Page A6


It was the reverse of Watergate. The John Doe investigation focused on so many people surrounding Governor Scott Walker, but the worst crime uncovered was a third-rate burglary.

Former Walker aide and confidant Tim Russell was found to have embezzled money from a charitable fund for veterans. That investigation began when then-County Executive Walker and his chief of staff, Tom Nardelli, noticed a discrepancy and asked Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm to investigate.

Russell got two years for his crime, or less time than it took to complete his prosecution.

Meanwhile, two other Walker aides were found to have done political work on county time, political work not directly related to Walker’s campaign for governor. One of them, Kelly Rindfleisch, worked for failed lieutenant governor candidate Brett Davis.

The other aide, Darlene Wink, organized a fundraiser for the Milwaukee County Republican Party and answered a few comments on a newspaper website. To put it in perspective, state Superintendent for Department of Public Instruction Tony Evers sent out fundraising emails from a state account in his first race for his current job and will probably cruise to re-election.

Then there is the case of Brian Pierick, Russell’s paramour, who was caught texting with a 17-year-old who claimed he was 19. I think it would be pretty hard to imagine that this crime took a three-year John Doe investigation to solve. Pierick got probation.

It’s hard to imagine that any of these crimes needed the time and resources invested by the Milwaukee district attorney’s office. Unfortunately, we may never know the full cost of the investigation. The district attorney’s office denied a request by the MacIver Institute to find out how many hours staff worked on the investigation.

This lack of transparency by Chisholm and his office only further hurts his reputation. During the investigation, Media Trackers learned at least 43 members of Chisholm’s staff signed the petition to recall Walker. There were enough alleged leaks of information to sink several Titanics. The investigation looked more like a partisan attack than a serious investigation.

So for all of this expensive investigating and damaging leaking, in the end the Democrats got nothing. They tried to use the probe in the first election between Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. They tried to use the John Doe investigation in the recall rematch between Walker and Barrett. And when Barrett lost again, they all hoped the probe would drive Walker from office before the next election.

To Wisconsin Democrats, the investigation was bigger than the Dreyfus Affair, Watergate and the Teapot Dome scandal. After the recall, MSNBC’s Ed Schultz infamously predicted that Walker would be indicted within a matter of months. So did Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate.

So it would be a little understandable if Wisconsin’s Democrats went a little nuts with the news that the John Doe investigation ended with no more prosecutions. They had so much invested in it.

However, Democratic Party Spokesman Graeme Zielinski went completely loopy (to use a clinical term) when he asked on Twitter, “What do@GovWalker and Jeffrey Dahmer have in common?”

This was not the first time Zielinski lost it on Twitter and elsewhere. He infamously falsely accused Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus of purposely holding up vote results in the recall election between Rep. Sandy Pasch and state Sen. Alberta Darling. He regularly accuses conservative organizations of racism without any foundation. At times his Twitter feed looked like the ramblings of David Koresh.

However, this time was apparently too much for the Democrats. An apology was posted in Zielinski’s name and Zielinski was relieved of his Twitter duties. He may be “fined” $1,000 by the Democratic Party, and he is restricted to keeping his remarks off the record. They may have even sent Zielinski to bed without supper.

But Zielinski is still on the payroll, still working for the state Democratic Party. They must be proud of him for some reason.

So after huge sums of money and time have been spent in a political investigation of the governor’s staff, the only real significant thing we have learned is that the Democrats can’t be taken seriously when they claim to want to improve the quality of political debate and improve bipartisanship in Madison.

We should expect better, even for government work.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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