While Scott Walker is at Ronald Reagan’s ranch in California trying to get rid of Wisconsin’s “same-day voter registration law” because he’s lying about how seniors operating as poll workers can’t handle it, the John Doe investigation took a harrowing, focused turn against him with the sentencing of his former aide Kelly Rindfleisch, who is the fourth former Walker staffer convicted with six months in jail and three years of probation. Darlene Wink, William Gardner and Kevin Kavanaugh in what has been called “Walkergate“.
In a lengthy presentation during Rindfleisch’s sentencing, Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf displayed numerous emails between Rindfleisch and key members of Walker’s campaign staff in which they discussed how to manage county government in 2010, while Walker was a candidate for governor.
Repeatedly, Landgraf argued that Rindfleisch knowingly broke the law by doing campaign work at the courthouse. In a new development, the prosecutor made clear – without saying it was illegal – that top Walker campaign officials influenced, even directed, county strategy.
“You guys are in the driver’s seat,” Rindfleisch wrote in one message to Keith Gilkes, Walker’s former campaign chief of staff.
At another point, Rindfleisch said in an email regarding an effort by the campaign to plant stories about problems at the state Mendota Mental Health Institute: “This needs to be done covertly so it’s not tied to Scott or the campaign in any way.”
Landgraf said “The Campaign Group” included Walker, Gilkes, campaign spokeswoman Jill Bader and campaign adviser R.J. Johnson. It also included several top county aides to Walker: Cindy Archer, who was county administration director; county chief of staff Tom Nardelli; spokeswoman Fran McLaughlin; housing director Timothy Russell; and Rindfleisch.
Rindfleisch served as Walker’s policy adviser and later his deputy chief of staff at the county.
Five members of the group spoke by phone daily at 8 a.m. to make sure the county executive’s office was “in sync” with the “image” the campaign was advancing of Walker in his Republican race for governor against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, according to an email Landgraf presented in court as part of a PowerPoint presentation beamed to a large flat-panel TV.
“There was close contact with the campaign” and Walker’s county staff, Landgraf said.
The five members on the daily calls were Gilkes and Bader from the campaign and Rindfleisch, Nardelli and McLaughlin from the county executive staff.
Walker is bound to get even more implicated as Rindfleisch has agreed to testify in the upcoming December trial of Timothy Russell on three felony counts of embezzlement as well as links to setting up a secret email network used by Rindfleisch, just feet away from Walker’s Milwaukee County executive office.
“It’s clear now that he presided over a criminal culture where county government in Milwaukee became an adjunct of his campaign,” State Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski said. “The citizens of Wisconsin should be afraid that this criminal culture has been imported to Madison.”