The innuendo War on Walker: Whole lotta nothin’

The innuendo War on Walker: Whole lotta nothin’

As Wisconsin governor Scott Walker headed toward his June 2012 recall election, his political opponents dropped any pretense that the recall attempt was about his reforms to public-sector collective bargaining, the election’s previously stated purpose, which had come to be a relatively popular, successful measure. Instead, Democrats focused on a “John Doe” investigation into actions taken by former staffers while Walker was Milwaukee County executive in 2010.

In March 2013, well after Walker won his recall election, the John Doe investigation was dropped, and Walker was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing. …

While the investigation has been closed for nearly a year, yesterday nearly 27,000 pages of [county staffer Kelly] Rindfleisch’s e-mails were made public.  In an age when politics is characterized by careful, guarded public statements, the anything-but-guarded Rindfleisch e-mails caused a feeding frenzy among local media. …

There really doesn’t appear to be anything new in the e-mails … But there’s just enough in them for Democrats to try to do what prosecutors couldn’t: convict Walker in the court of public opinion.

How? There are the embarrassing e-mails one would find looking through 27,000 pages of any organization’s server. For instance, one of Walker’s former older staffers, Tom Nardelli, appears to be fond of racially insensitive jokes, which national outlets are trying to stick to his former boss. In some e-mails, Rindfleisch complains about deeply personal matters, such as feeling bad about being left off an invite for a “couples’ weekend” in Northern Wisconsin, and her need to lose weight. …

[T]he e-mail Walker’s opponents are making the most of is one they believe “directly ties” Walker to a separate wireless network his staff had set up in his county executive office. Having a “secret” router would protect certain campaign-related e-mails from being made public under open records laws.

[W]hile prosecutors have had these e-mails for nearly three years and found nothing, Democrats believe this exchange proves Walker was in on the “secret network,” which his subordinates used to access campaign e-mails while in the office. …

All these e-mails prove is that Walker’s staffers used the network to receive the e-mails he sent to their campaign accounts from his own campaign e-mail account. It in no way proves Walker knew anything about the “secret” network. Under this logic, anyone who e-mailed Rindfleisch during this time is “directly tied” to the private router. …

[A]side from the prurient interest in the occasionally scandalous personal details in the e-mail dump, nothing has yet come to light that the voters didn’t already know in the summer of 2012.

Despite Democrats’ best attempts to call this “Walker’s Chris Christie moment,” the fact remains that after two years of investigation, prosecutors came up with nothing to link Walker to any kind of illegal activity. And while there are still thousands of e-mails to pick through, don’t expect the Democratic party or Slate writers to dredge up anything trained prosecutors couldn’t find in two years.

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