Scott Walker “John Doe” Investigation Now Involves RNC Chairman Reince Preibus, Herman Cain Campaign Manager Mark Block
“Walkergate” is unfolding into a masterwork in American conspiracy as the complaint explaining the charges against two of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s former staff members includes an email that may prove Walker had knowledge of the illegal activities happening around him. The charges have also implicated current chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, and his ties to a voter suppression scandal involving both Americans for Prosperity and former Herman Cain campaign manager Mark Block.
All of this was in play during Walker’s 2010 gubernatorial run and much of the organizing may have been happening on county time in Walker’s Milwaukee County executive offices.
Walker’s various campaigns have displayed a pattern of corruption dating back to his failed attempt to win the seat of president of the Associated Students at Marquette University in 1988. Now, an FBI “John Doe” Investigation into corruption during his tenure as County Executive of Milwaukee County (2002-2010) has resulted in the arrests of people involved in his 2010 gubernatorial campaign and his current administration and has implicated various members of the state’s Republican Party. The recent charges against former Walker aides Kelly Rindfleisch and Darlene Wink shed light on the deep-seeded corruption that ran rampant in Walker’s offices during the 2010 election run.
Kelly Rindfleich has been charged with four felony counts for her role in fundraising for Brett Davis’ failed bid in the 2010 Lieutenant Governor primary. He eventually lost the election to former WISN morning anchor turned “Tea Party Barbie,” Rebecca Kleefisch, who is currently facing a recall along with Walker. Brett Davis later was appointed by Walker to be his Medicaid Director and is helping push drastic changes to Wisconsin’s Medicaid system. Rindfleich was hired by Tim Russell as a “policy analyst” and served as Deputy Chief of Staff after Russell stepped down from that position to take another spot in Walker’s county administration. WBAY ABC4 provides some detail about the charges:
According to the criminal complaint, she repeatedly emailed Davis’s campaign manager, Cullen Werwie, and asked Werwie to send campaign documents to others because she didn’t want her name on it. (Werwie is now Governor Walker’s spokesman. Werwie was given immunity in the John Doe investigation.)
Darlene Wink, who served as Walker’s constituent services coordinator, was charged with two misdemeanor counts of fundraising while on taxpayer time. Wink had previously resigned her position on May 13th, 2010 after being outed for writing over 70 pro-Walker comments, many of which also spoke poorly of his opponents, Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett and ex-U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann, on the message board of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, all while on the clock.
Perhaps more interesting, however, is an email about her resignation that Scott Walker sent to Tim Russell who was then acting Director of Housing for Milwaukee County. This letter appears as part of the Rindfleisch Complaint issued by the State of Wisconsin Circuit Court Criminal Division.
Also included is a section of the findings that shows both Wink and Rindfleisch had been using a secret router and laptops brought from home to conduct campaign business while on the clock for the county. More importantly, these new pieces of evidence imply County Executive Scott Walker knew about the ongoing wrongdoing:
In order to access the Internet, both Darlene Wink and Kelly Rindfleisch used laptop computers that they brought into the office. As noted, above, Rindfleisch was able to access the Internet through an unofficial wireless router.
On the day of the Journal Sentinel article, May 14, 2010 at 8:56 in the morning, while “chatting” with Tim Russell, Rindfleisch advised Russell, “I took the wireless down. It’s in my bag for now.”
At least in the short term, the resignation of Darlene Wink had an impact on the activity of the County Executive’s Office. This is reflected in an e-mail exchange between Scott Walker (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Tim Russell, then serving as the Director of Housing for the Department of Health and Human services. See Figure 15 recovered from the email@example.com account.
One of the more fascinating parts of this exchange has been highlighted by Jud Lounsbury of UppityWisconsin: there was no reason for Walker to call Russell about the situation because he was no longer the Deputy Chief of Staff and Rindfleisch no longer officially reported to him:
Clearly, he wrote to Tim Russell because he knew Tim Russell was in charge of the illegal campaign-at-work set-up. As the complaint clearly states, we know this email to Russell had great impact, because after Russell got it, illegal campaign-at-work activity took a sudden downturn. Why would campaign-at-work activity of people that Russell had no official oversight of take this kind of downturn?
The only logical explanation is that Russell was in charge of the campaign-at-work operation and, more importantly, Walker knew that Russell was in charge of the illegal activity.
Blogging Blue pointed out a post from the blog Cognitive Dissidence, dated May 25th, 2010, which noted that on the same day that Dan Bice outed Darlene Wink, the Pro-Walker website ScottforGov.com dropped off Twitter and stopped posting. This begs the question: is this the website that Walker was talking about in his email?
If so, the evidence is becoming staggering against Scott Walker and his administration. The alleged “smoking gun” email shows that Walker had knowledge of a campaign organization running wild in his county on taxpayer time. This has to almost certainly lead to charges against Scott Walker himself in the upcoming months, possibly as he travels the state battling his recall.
The most recent criminal complaint also mentions Reince Preibus, then Republican Party of Wisconsin chairman and now head of the Republican National Committee. As the President of the RNC, Preibus was one of the main defenders of Herman Cain when his Presidential campaign was rocked by a series of scandals. As it turns out, part of money stolen by Russell was used to visit Herman Cain and his campaign manager, Mark Block, in Atlanta during December of 2010, after Walker had been elected. Mark Block, better known as the “smoking man” in Cain’s most infamous commercial, is the former Wisconsin State Director of Americans for Prosperity.
According to an Alternet article published on January 21, 2011, Block and Priebus participated in massive voter suppression of minorities in both the 2008 Presidential election and the 2010 mid-term election. This included the Wisconsin Gubernatorial race that Walker won and the Senate race which saw Russ Feingold fall to Tea Party backed candidate Ron Johnson. Block and Priebus, with help of Wisconsin Tea Party group Grandsons of Liberty and the assistance of Americans for Prosperity, ran a “voter caging” scam aimed at college students and African-Americans. Alternet describes “voter caging” and how Reince Priebus used his position of President of the Republican Party of Wisconsin to approve it:
“Voter caging” is a term used for a process designed to challenge the legitimacy of a voter’s registration by sending out mail marked “do not forward” — in this case, postcards — to the addresses of targeted registered voters, and challenging the registrations of those at addresses from which the mail is returned as “undeliverable.” The non-partisan Brennan Center for Justice describes it this way: “Voter caging…is notoriously unreliable. If it is treated as the sole basis for determining that a voter is ineligible or does not live at the address at which he or she registered, it can lead to the unwarranted purge or challenge of eligible voters.”
At a June 2010 meeting of Tea Party activists eager to join in the right’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud, Tim Dake, leader of the Wisconsin GrandSons of Liberty, outlined the Tea Party/GOP/AFP caging plan, saying, “So, what we’re hoping is that the various groups in the coalition, plus Americans for Prosperity and Mark Block, who has been in on this, and the Republican Party — and this is coming all the way from the top: Reince Priebus has said, ‘We’re in.'”
This leaves me with two questions: Why was Tim Russell in Atlanta to meet with Koch Brothers future favorite Herman Cain & Co.? And was Reince Priebus rewarded for his participation in changing the voting process to help take control of Wisconsin with a chance to do the same to the nation?
Writer Dan Brice, who broke the piece about Darlene Wink’s use of county time to post online comments, also broke the news that the Koch Brothers were connected to the Herman Cain campaign finance scandal. Priebus, who originally defended Cain, recently told voters in Arkansas that the “war” between Republican Presidential Candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich is “a good thing.” Herman Cain has recently endorsed Newt Gingrich for President.
So, the only question now is how far does this go? Or, more specifically, how far will this be allowed to go? The citizen journalists of Wisconsin deserve some of the credit for the groundwork in investigating “Walkergate.” In the age of social media and independent news blogs, stories like this tend to unfold faster than ever. As more arrests come in the “John Doe” investigation it will be interesting to see who else is implicated. According to the blog Cognitive Dissidence, the most recent set of charges shed light on the situation but do not explain other points that have been brought up by observers, such as:
*It was not explained why they want to speak with Andrew Jensen, the realty mogul, who is expected to meet with the DA’s office on January 25.
*It does not explain Nardelli’s sudden departure from his state job or his need to lawyer up.
*Nor do the events explain why Walker paid Steve Biskupic, former US Attorney, at least $60,000 to represent his campaign.
*There was also no mention of the footage shot by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, showing Russell campaign during Walker’s last Harley-Davidson ride around the state or the complaint they filed with the DA’s Office as a result.
*It does not resolve the mystery of how so many files and computers ended up missing from the Milwaukee County Courthouse as Walker left to become governor.
*There is no mention of Cindy Archer or the things that they took from her home, including a computer hard drive.
As we wait for these answers, the one thing that the recently discovered email from Scott Walker to Tim Russell seems to prove is that Walker had knowledge of illicit activities happening around him. What else he has knowledge of is something we as a nation will have to wait impatiently to find out.