The ongoing “John Doe” investigation looking into illegal campaign activities on county time during now-Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s stint as Milwaukee County Executive has added new names to the fold. Three members of Walker’s County Executive Administration — Darlene Wink, Timothy Russell, and Kelly Rindfleisch — have already been charged for various offenses committed while Walker was running for Governor in 2010. Now, Walker’s former Communications Director, Fran McLaughlin, is under investigation as well.
According to documents, McLaughlin was working on Walker’s gubernatorial campaign using a “secret router” located just feet from the Governor to communicate with campaign staff. Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause Wisconsin told FOX6Now:
“That’s interesting that that document exists and kind of lays out the road map that the District Attorney’s Office wanted to initially follow. It appears they’re not quite done yet with everybody on that list. It seems to be another example of somebody working on county time on the taxpayers dime, cheating the taxpayers, working on something they’re not supposed to be working on, which is the political advancement of Scott Walker for another office…”
To boot, new transcripts have been made available that show communications between the already-charged Rindfleisch and Walker’s former Chief of Staff, Jim Villa. In those conversations, the two discuss the shortcomings of their peers as well as the jobs they will be rewarded with if Walker becomes Governor:
In the several pages of conversation in the transcripts, Rindfleisch and Villa offer withering criticism of other Walker aides as they discuss how their stars will rise once Walker wins the governor’s race.
Neither wound up with any state job, but in a March 28, 2010, chat Rindfleisch tells Villa: “I’ve decided you need to be Secretary of Commerce. And don’t tell me you don’t have the experience. You really think (Jim) Klauser had the experience for DOA or (Bill) McCoshen for Commerce?”
Klauser headed the state Department of Administration under Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson and McCoshen served as a Thompson commerce secretary.
“And I can be your (executive assistant); you can pay me well,” Rindfleisch says.
Villa says he has another job in mind with the future governor, referring to Walker by his initials.
“I don’t think SKW thinks of me that way,” Villa replies. “I actually think he is thinking of me as (executive assistant) for DOA or in his office.”
The megalomaniacal dreams of climbing the ladder on the coattails of “SKW” are well documented here:
The Rindfleisch-Villa chats include some catty commentary on other Walker county staffers.
Russell has just lost his privileges to the county executive’s suite, according to a March 30 exchange.
“Get this, Tom revoked Tim’s access to the office,” Rindfleisch says, possibly referring to Tom Nardelli, then Walker’s chief of staff. Russell had been Walker’s deputy chief of staff, a job that was given to Rindfleisch.
Russell set up a secret email network in Rindfleisch’s office earlier in 2010, according to her criminal complaint.
In a chat with Villa two weeks earlier, Rindfleisch says she’d avoided telling Russell she had been promoted by Walker from policy aide to deputy chief of staff – Russell’s job.
“I’ve kept quiet because I don’t think Tim knew I knew (about her promotion) and I didn’t want to offend him,” she says. “It’s not like I earned it. No one else in the office is capable,” Rindfleisch tells Villa.
Villa reassures her she has the “political chops” to handle the job. “YOU are the political operation in that office now; Tom is an IDIOT,” Villa writes. He doesn’t identify who Tom is, but the only Tom working in Walker’s county office at the time was Nardelli.
None of the county executive office jobs is intended to be political, but Rindfleisch treated her job that way, according to prosecutors. She is accused of doing extensive campaign work, including fundraising on behalf of Republican lieutenant governor candidate Brett Davis, while at her county post. Her criminal complaint says she also had frequent phone contact with Walker’s campaign staff while on the county job.
Villa opines in the online chat that “Keith will work better with you than with Tim” Russell. The transcripts don’t spell out who Keith is, but hint at a direct connection between Walker’s campaign staff and his county staff. Walker’s campaign manager was Keith Gilkes.
Raising cash for Davis was “tough going,” according to Rindfleisch.
“Nobody cares about Lt. Gov.,” she says.
While Rindfleisch’s behavior seems more sophomoric than conniving, she does all but admit to campaign work on county time, which she has already been charged with. If previous investigation news breaks are any indication, the inclusion of Villa and McLaughlin will lead to new information when possible charges are released in the upcoming weeks and months.