We agree with Scott Walker that there are unanswered questions about the use of private email for official business – so he should start talking about his secret email system and the multiple criminal corruption probes that sent top Walker aides to prison.
It’s been more than a year since the most incriminating batch of emails obtained through the John Doe investigations were released and Scott Walker has yet to answer questions about what he knew and when he knew it – even as a Republican prosecutor has alleged that Scott Walker was at the center of an “expansive” national “criminal scheme” to illegally coordinate with outside special interest groups to raise and spend campaign cash in violation of election law.
Editorial boards all over Wisconsin – even ones who endorsed the governor -- have called on Walker to answer questions.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Gov. Scott Walker needs to talk. He should hold a news conference to explain how much he knew about a secret email system as Milwaukee County executive. And he needs to let reporters ask as many questions as they want.”
Beloit Daily News: "Scott Walker owes explanations to the people of Wisconsin. He should make himself available to answer questions — as many as there are for as long as it takes — as soon as possible."
Appleton Post Crescent: “Walker has refused to answer questions about the email system, but he needs to. Did he know about it and participate in it, as at least one of the emails states? And if so, how does he think this secret system was ethical? How does he think hiding communication that’s considered a public record was serving his constituents?”
“His answers will speak to his integrity not just when he was Milwaukee County executive but today, as governor. His lack of answers so far speaks to it, too.”
But still no answers from Walker. How has he avoided the questions?
Plead ignorance (instead of the Fifth)
As far back as 2012 during the recall election, before Wisconsin was aware of the extent to which the criminal activity spanned, Walker was dodging questions by suggesting that he couldn’t comment on the John Doe because he didn’t have time to read all the documents.
May 2, 2012: “There’s a lot of documents to look at, and I don’t think the taxpayers of this state want a governor to be looking at thousands and thousands of documents when I should be focusing on jobs.”
June 2, 2012: "It's spin. False innuendo."
October 22, 2013: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that, pressed three times on the matter, "Gov. Scott Walker won't say whether he, his attorneys or any staff members have been contacted in a growing, secret criminal investigation into a variety of state issues." Walker also told the Journal Sentinel that he wouldn't be distracted by questions on the John Doe investigation, which he called a "sidebar issue," adding "In terms of a lot of the questions regarding that issue, I really don't have a lot to say."
November 25, 2013: "I honestly don't know enough to comment."
Not having the time to read all the documents was an effective dodge for the governor, so effective that he used it again on Fox News to completely avoid a simple question even after being told he’s not answering.
February 23, 2014: - “I’m not going to get into 25,000 different pieces of information.”
And again with the state press.
February 26, 2014: The Wisconsin State Journal reports, “The reason we’re not going to go through 27,000 emails is because we’ve had authorities, proper authorities, do that,” Walker said. “I think anybody who looks at it objectively says a Democrat-led office went through this ... for many, many years, and ultimately last March decided to close their investigation without any further action.”
“We’d have to go back in some cases multiple years looking at multiple documents,” Walker told reporters in explaining why he won’t answer questions raised by the documents. “I think that takes the eye off the focus of what I was elected to do, which was to help the people of the state create more jobs, continue to grow the economy. ... I’m really focused on that.”
Blame the media
Under siege, career politician Scott Walker put his political machine into overdrive on a desperate “blame the media” strategy.
The faux journalists at right-wing outlets breathlessly slammed the “mainstream” media for its bias against Scott Walker. Apparently, only Charlie Sykes, Mark Belling, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of Tea Party talk radio get what’s really happening here – other journalists are too ignorant to report the real story.
Right Wisconsin: “Journal Sentinel Editors: Spinning As Fast As They Can”
Media Trackers: “Milwaukee Editor Reveals Mainstream Media Bias Against Walker”
The Daily Caller: “Media Aids And Abets Left-Wing Smear Of Governor Scott Walker”
The Center for Media and Democracy notes that many of these conservative outlets leading the charge against the John Doe are funded by the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, which is chaired by Michael Grebe, who also serves as Scott Walker’s campaign chair:
“The Bradley Foundation and its directors have given nearly $18 million to groups that are now connected to individuals involved in the John Doe investigation and the campaign against it.
- Bradley donated $1,230,400 between 2009 and 2014 to the news outlets and journalists that have aggressively attacked prosecutors and the criminal investigation.
- It has given $3,006,220 between 1998 and 2012 to groups directed or founded by Wisconsin Club for Growth director Eric O’Keefe, who sued in federal court to halt the investigation.
- Bradley has donated $205,000 between 2003 and 2010 toward the George Mason University “judicial junkets” attended by U.S. Judge Rudolph Randa, the federal judge who ordered the destruction of evidence gathered in the probe, including $115,000 during the years that Randa is known to have attended.
- Bradley board members have donated more than $100,000 to Walker’s gubernatorial campaigns, and also have close ties to the groups under investigation.”
Read the CMD analysis in its entirety here.
Go on the offensive
February 20, 2014: The Wisconsin State Journal reports, “These people are naysayers who want things bad to happen in Wisconsin, so they are going to be circling again today,” Walker said. “It’s exactly what’s wrong with the political process that they’re hoping for something bad to happen in Wisconsin. It’s not. They’re going to do what they’ve done in the past which is overhype things. And politically they’re going to be disappointed.”
February 27, 2014: Fox 6 reports, “Gov. Walker says the Burke campaign is focusing on the John Doe emails as a way to distract from his record of reforms.”
Walker went on to try and attack a staffer on Mary Burke’s campaign.
“Gov. Walker responded, “It’s an interesting statement for a campaign who actually has someone on their staff right now who has been involved in things like that in the past.”
“How can someone make a suggestion like that when, arguably, they knowingly accepted someone who fits the very category they’re criticizing?” asked Gov. Walker.”
June 20, 2014: After another round of documents were released, Walker took to the air on Fox and Friends to defend himself and rail against prosecutors. Walker commented that the criminal corruption probe was over, prompting an “False” rating from Politifact Wisconsin which stated that “Walker said the secret John Doe criminal investigation of his campaign has been "resolved" and two judges have said it is "over." His characterization is misleading at best…. We rate Walker’s statement False.”
Also on Fox and Friends, Walker commented that two judges had stated that “they didn’t think that anything was done that was illegal.”
With the pressure on to answer questions, Walker questioned the integrity of the prosecutors and judge, even though they have impeccable credentials and a history of nonpartisan dedication to the rule of law. But the Republican prosecutor who alleged Walker was at the center of a “criminal scheme” slammed Walker’s argument that the investigation was a partisan witchhunt.
A statement released through attorneys for special prosecutor Francis Schmitz, a Republican who has publicly confirmed that he voted for Scott Walker, said that Schmitz “swore an oath when he accepted his appointment to lead the John Doe investigations in accordance with the law and on behalf of the State of Wisconsin. He has kept that oath."
Unanswered Questions for Walker
- Are you in possession of emails exchanged on the secret email network revealed by the first John Doe investigation? If so, will you release those records?
- Will you make public any statements or depositions you’ve given, and/or agreements you entered into, with district attorneys in connection with the first, closed John Doe investigation?
- Why do you continue to employ figures closely tied with the John Doe investigation, even knowing that they potentially committed crimes or at the very least acted in an unethical manner?
- Reince Priebus’ name appears in John Doe criminal complaints. Was he called to testify before the John Doe judge? Did Priebus give testimony or statements to state and/or federal prosecutors?
- Did you personally approve payments to John Doe figures facing prosecution you’re your campaign and/or from entities associated with the Republican Party of Wisconsin?
- If, as you’ve repeatedly stated, the law is clear that anyone who knows anything about the John Doe is legally prevented from talking about it, did you violate the law by discussing the Doe and attacking prosecutors and judges?
- Since you have opened the door to talk about the Doe, will you take any and all questions from reporters that you have previously declined to answer, citing your inability to talk about the Doe?
- Much of the information made publicly available was released at the request of Wisconsin Club for Growth, not because of partisan motivation on the part of the prosecutors. Did you ask CFG not to sue to make this information public? If so, why did they deny your request?