Monday, August 19th, 2019

Damn friends


“I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies in a fight. But my damn friends, they’re the ones who keep me walking the floor nights.”

–      Warren G. Harding


So my wife asked me an interesting question the other day. She asked, “Are you going to ask Walker’s people your questions about the John Doe investigation?”

So whom do I ask? Governor Scott Walker’s spokesman Cullen Werwie, Brett Davis’ campaign manager when he ran for Lt Governor? Or do I ask DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch, who held a fundraiser for Davis?

In the 2010 election cycle, Davis ran for Lt Governor.  Davis hired as his fundraiser Kelly Rindfleisch who was working for then County Executive Scott Walker. In the criminal complaint against Rindfleisch we learned she was doing this on county time from her county office using a secret internet network connection set up by Walker aide and longtime associate Tim Russell.

As mentioned before, Werwie was Davis’ campaign manager and he frequently communicated with Rindfleisch during normal business hours. Werwie has been granted immunity in the investigation.

The complaint states that nobody questioned by the John Doe investigation were ever told not to contact Rindfleisch during working hours, despite prohibitions on doing political work – especially fundraising – from County offices. However, Werwie and Davis had to know Rindfleisch’s position, and they had to know what she was doing was illegal. At the very least, when considering Rindfleisch for the position of fundraiser they should have asked her, “Is your other job going to be a problem with the amount of time we need you to work on the campaign?”

It gets worse, of course, because of the very existence of the secret internet network. It had to be set up with the express purpose of getting around open records requests and doing illegal political campaign activity from the county executive’s offices. Otherwise, why else would you need a secret internet connection?

In addition, Rindfleisch said in an online chat,

“really, half of what I’m doing is policy for the campaign”

“Its policy stuff but its for use over there”

It turns out, Walker’s chief of staff, Tom Nardelli, didn’t even know Rindfleisch was hired or for why until she showed up for work.

Some questions we can answer. While it looks like Darlene Wink was working on fundraisers for Walker, they were events of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, which had endorsed Walker. While the events were coordinated with the Walker campaign, it’s clear that Wink was working on the events in her capacity as First Vice Chairman of the Republican Party of Milwaukee County, not as someone working for the Walker campaign. It’s unlikely Walker even knew of her activities for the fundraisers in question or when she was doing them.

It’s also no surprise that many of those surrounding Walker were not supporters of Rebecca Kleefisch when she ran for Lt Governor. Anyone who closely observed the Lt Governor’s race in 2010 knew that Davis was the anointed candidate.

Some are making a point of Walker telling Russell that the use of laptops by staff needed to end immediately, and that he did it using his campaign email account.

“We cannot afford another story like this one. No one can give them any reason to do another story. That means no laptops, no websites, no time away from the work day, etc.”

However, it was clearly it was in reaction to the Dan Bice article that broke the Wink story.

She did say that she brings a personal laptop to work and that she posts most – and perhaps all – of her comments using it, not a county computer. In addition, she said she tries to put in extra time doing her real job, helping fix problems raised by individual county residents, when she takes time out to read and reply to stories about Walker or other gubernatorial candidates.

But Wink said this wouldn’t be reflected on her time cards.

The message was sent from his Blackberry, which explains the email account. But why send it to Tim Russell instead of someone actually working in the County Executive’s office? Another tough question to be answered.

Unfortunately, the ones that would do the answering on behalf of the governor, Werwie and Huebsch, are clearly compromised by their role in the scandals, with Werwie clearly the most compromised given the direct role that he played. It doesn’t help Walker’s case that the other person who knew of Rindfleisch’s activities, Davis, is still employed by Walker. Clearly Werwie and Davis should have been fired by now.

(Huebsch might not have known of Rindfleisch’s position in the county executive’s office as he was only a contributor and not running the Davis campaign.)

That leaves the governor himself to answer the questions. Walker is going to have to answer why Rindfleisch was hired, who knew of the decision, and if he knew of the internet network connection set up by Russell. Did Walker know about the political activities by his staff?  Did Walker authorize or use the secret internet set up that was just one office over?  Did Walker use the internet network connection himself for political activity?

The governor had a chance Friday night to answer those questions, but instead deflected them by saying that complying with the John Doe probe meant he couldn’t answer. However, the governor has said that he has not been questioned, and that he is not the target of the investigation.

It’s ironic that the investigation is leaking like a sieve but the one person who is free to talk and the one we most want to hear from, Governor Scott Walker, isn’t talking.





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