By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON, Wis. — Still think politics has nothing do with a taxpayer-funded, Democrat-driven investigation into conservatives connected to Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker?
In a “memo” sent out Tuesday afternoon, Woodhouse beats the old Democratic Party drum, drudging up allegations from a long and winding secret investigation that finally ended with six convictions, four of those not in any way related to the original reason for the probe.
Remember where Woodhouse is coming from. He leads liberal super PAC American Bridge, an opposition-research juggernaut, as described by Politico. He also is president of Americans United for Change, the progressive issue-advocacy group.
American Bridge’s offshoot, Correct the Record, as you may recall, late last year launched its first political salvo in its war on potential GOP candidates for president in 2016, putting Walker squarely in its crosshairs.
While in his memo Woodhouse makes a passing note that the nearly 3-year-old John Doe investigation ended without any charges of wrongdoing lodged against Walker, he strikes up the left-wing conspiracy band again, playing the same old Democratic Party tune.
“… (Walker) still paid thousands in legal defense fees related to the investigation. Now, mere months after the first three-year long investigation was closed, there is a second John Doe investigation related to spending and coordination of outside groups in Walker’s 2011 recall election,” Woodhouse declares.
That second John Doe is the same meandering, multi-county probe launched, again, by the Democrat-led Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office. It’s the same court-administered dragnet that has orchestrated pre-dawn raids at the home of conservative targets, only to have several of its subpoenas quashed by the presiding judge in the case, who ruled the prosecution did not show evidence to support its allegations.
Wringing out his wet conspiracy wash cloth, Woodhouse goes back to the first John Doe.
“On Wednesday, new documents resulting from the John Doe investigation into Walker’s Milwaukee County Executive administration will be released,” Woodhouse writes in an email.
He is, of course, referring to the court-ordered release of the private emails of Kelly Rindfleisch, who served as deputy chief of staff for Walker when he was Milwaukee County executive.
The investigation, launched in May 2010 by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat, began after Walker’s staff discovered discrepancies in a county fund for veterans. County executive employee Darlene Wink, who first found the shortage, was eventually convicted for campaigning for Walker on government time.
A civil rights lawsuit filed last week by the target of the latest John Doe, asserts the first probe was nothing more than a politically driven “fishing expedition” intent on bringing down Walker for his political successes.
“… (T)he Milwaukee County Attorney’s Office decided to use a John Doe proceeding to investigate the Milwaukee County Executive’s Office as a means of influencing the 2010 election in which Scott Walker was a candidate for Governor,” the lawsuit alleges.
As recently reported in Wisconsin Reporter:
The first John Doe investigation concluded with the convictions of two men Walker had hoped would be investigated in the case of the missing veterans funds. Kevin Kavanaugh, treasurer of the veterans fund, and Walker former aide Timothy Russell were found guilty of embezzlement. Russell’s domestic partner, Brian Pierick, got caught up in the dragnet after investigators found damning images on the couple’s home computer. Pierick was sentenced to 50 hours of community service and ordered to pay a $2,148 fine for contributing to the delinquency of a child. He had been charged with one count of child endangerment and another count of exposing his genitals for an alleged online sexual relationship with a 17-year-old male. Pierick reportedly believed the 17-year-old to be of consenting age.
But in its wide net, the John Doe investigation captured three others on convictions unrelated to the veterans fund. The CEO of a Wisconsin railroad company got two years of probation for exceeding campaign contribution limits in support of Walker’s run for governor, as well as laundering campaign contributions through employees and associates. Walker’s campaign promptly returned the contributions. As the lawsuit points out, the conviction had nothing to do with the original intent of the John Doe investigation.
Neither did the conviction of Kelly Rindfleisch, who worked in Walker’s county executive office. She was sentenced to six months in jail on a misconduct conviction for campaign fundraising at the courthouse using a secret email system, according to the prosecution. She is appealing that decision. Last week, a Milwaukee County judge ordered the release of all of Rindfleisch’s professional and personal emails.
Rindfleisch agreed to a plea deal because she said she lacked the funds to mount a legal defense and hoped to “avoid jail time to care for her 88-year-old, ailing mother,” according to the lawsuit.
Sources tell Wisconsin Reporter that Rindfleisch’s home was raided again during the latest John Doe probe into conservative organizations.
Wink, the county executive employee who first reported the discrepancy in the veterans fund, was convicted on two misdemeanors for campaigning for Walker on government time.
“As with Rindfleisch, (Wink’s) conviction is the result of prosecutors turning peoples’ lives upside down in a politically motivated fishing expedition,” the civil rights lawsuit asserts.
Now Woodhouse and his ilk are hoping to fire up the Democratic Party “shame” machine in advance of the release of the Rindfleisch emails.
“How much involvement did Walker have in the mixing of county government and campaign business by his staff?” Woodhouse’s memo asks. “Did Walker himself use the ‘secret email network’? Did he ever use it to direct his staff to conduct campaign business on government time?”
Of course, Woodhouse knows the answers to those question.: The investigation would not have ended without charges against the then-Milwaukee County executive had those emails, reviewed through the John Doe process, found Walker had done anything illegal.
But why let the facts get in the way of politics.
Woodhouse’s group has made it clear it is hungry to go after Walker, seen as a growing threat on the national stage in 2016, even as the first-term Republican governor runs for re-election in November.
Politico senior political reporter Maggie Haberman said the choice of Walker as the hit group’s first target is interesting.
“Slamming Walker gets Correct the Record a political hat-trick — they get to try to ding him for two elections, and to elevate him in name recognition in a GOP presidential primary battle in which New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is seen as a strong front-runner,” Haberman wrote in a Nov. 27 piece.
In short, the Clinton machine’s early attack on Walker shows national Democrats don’t see the Wisconsin governor, best known for his public-sector collective bargaining reforms, as just some Republican dark horse. They see him as a bona fide threat.
With Christie’s star falling in the wake of “Bridgegate,” American Bridge and its like-minded, well-coordinated friends would seem more interested than ever in going after Scott Walker.
Contact M.D. Kittle at email@example.com
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