In The News
Even to scrupulous thinkers, John Doe ensnares Walker
By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Labor Press
Posted January 31, 2012
There are no-no areas for journalists in attacking Walker and his minions. Judging by other blogs and pundits on all sides pursuing the hidden stories in the John Doe probe slowly encircling the governor, it is a caution routinely violated.
But it is still a fine line this columnist adheres to. It recognizes how often people rise above quitting college or being charged with a crime – and how often and too easily the public and the media ridicule people for something that is normally not our business unless it breaks the law, such as private sexual behavior.
The no-nos in this case are Scott Walker is a college dropout, he often hires homosexuals and sometimes that includes people who previously ran afoul of the law. None by themselves a cause for condemnation.
The pundits have noted, and I will not dwell, on the fact that a longtime Walker aide and a key name in a series of indictments, Tim Russell, has a male domestic and business partner also indicted, with Russell connected in the tale, on charges of child enticement involving a 17 year old youth and an email roundelay around the screen name “Walker 04.” Strange, yes, but clearly a John Doe sideshow. Corruption, not sex, is the main target.
Several names in the John Doe probe are or were Walker’s key staff and administrative appointments to campaign, county and state government duties and have homosexual lifestyles. The numbers are far beyond average and way beyond typical Republican policy. (Have you been paying attention to the virulently anti-gay Republican presidential debates?) But I will not spell out who if they are not so identified in official documents.
The hiring of people for ability not sexual preference is not only required under law but also could be regarded as commendable for a Republican leader. But is that what was going on? Or did their lifestyles in a conservative environment make them particularly vulnerable or overly grateful and loyal to Walker? Were they prone to do his bidding? Given the combination of questionable ability and dubious treatment of the law involved, this has now become fair game for inquiry.
Citizens know case after case of people who dropped out of college for all sorts of reasons, from Bill Gates to union presidents, and went on to good careers, so it is ridiculous to attack that. Unless later behavior reflects disturbing patterns.
Ditto people who broke the law or even went to prison. So many have found the way out of drugs, bad environment or other issues to rehabilitate and redeem. In fact, unions are famous for giving people a second chance, so don’t look for criticism here of the basic concept -- unless subsequent behavior or the reasons for the hiring in the first place open the door.
Bluntly put, these are the doubts that now surround the governor, creating the moniker Walkergate and opening up to legitimate journalistic and judicial speculation suasions we gingerly step into.
Walker’s college behavior has become a legitimate issue based on patterns and motivations. I have written about Walker dropping out of Marquette University as a senior, but only in the context of what his behavior then reveals about his practices now. The John Doe deepens the connection. One example stems from charges when he ran for student council president and the campus newspaper eventually wrote an editorial headlined “Walker Unfit to Govern” based on his attacking an opponent in private that he treated well in public and blaming violations of campaign rules on uncontrollable followers who he said ignored his instructions as opposed to carrying them out. (Sound familiar?)
I also find it amusing that he relies on the federal regulations he so often attacks to protect him from press inquiries into his school record. I’ve never thought it was the grades he was hiding but the disciplinary records from some of his antics.
As to hiring people with past brushes with the law, the way Walker did it smacks of waving a flag in front of a bull.
Unions generally support the existing law that gives corporations a pass on employment discrimination if they refuse to hire an ex-felon for a job similar to the original offense (the classic example being a pedophile applying to drive a school bus). That reflects common sense that Walker clearly discounted.
But unions and principled religious leaders fiercely oppose the repugnant SB 207 floating around the legislature that would let companies refuse to hire any former felon for any job. (The right-wing philosophy behind this bill is falsely justified by arguing that former felons can claim discrimination when denied a job they are not qualified for. There is little proof this happens but SB 207 sure would take fairness out of the thinking of corporations.)
But the basic existing rule is a good one – to not tempt people with duties similar to what got them into trouble in the first place. So what did Walker do? Kelly Rindfleisch, now facing multiple charges in the John Doe for illegally blending campaign work on county time, using a secret private email network just feet from Walker’s inner sanctum at the Courthouse, was similarly a target in the infamous GOP caucus scandal years ago in Madison. Walker knew all about that; he was then in the Assembly.
Russell apparently set up the email network and hired her. She just showed up without the knowledge of the chief of staff, raising several questions. How could Walker not know and who else was similarly hired? Indicted Russell, the longtime Walker friend and factotum, was also the front man in Walker’s Harley “tourism” tours and his 2004 promotion of the Bush presidential campaign disguised as a veterans’ event.
Stranger, in an uncovered John Doe email, Walker orders Russell – now in a different building and not connected officially to the campaign – to end the use of illegal laptops and websites (that’s when scottforgov.com and its comments disappeared) after a fired and now indicted aide confessed to the practice.
Russell is also accused of stealing funds from political candidates but a recent news story revealed that back in 1993 he was similarly accused of taking money from WHED, a state related organization.
John Does always operate by reeling in small fish first. These anecdotes are becoming the smoking guns that wrap Walker up among the smoked fishes. Some pretty big names along with Walker could be exposed in the still unfolding questions. Was Rindfleisch expected to emulate her Madison behavior? Who told Russell to set up the email network? Who paid for it? What county business was intermingled with campaign business on the secret network, and how many money and land deals were involved? How close was this county operation to his state government? Was Walker simply duped as he is likely to claim or was he looking for some sort of edge with people whose word would always be questioned because of their private or past proclivities?
His supporters expect the accused to stonewall knowing the GOP will never again hire snitches. But if they don’t talk, they could face years in prison. So the squeeze is on.
Since we are in the realm of speculation, some care should be taken and ethics should not be parked in a corner. But neither should the human brain be parked in the corner and thinkers can’t avoid how the logical connections just keep crowding in on the governor.