It’s not really a big thing, not on the grand scale of corruption. It was just a Milwaukee County employee who was doing fundraising for her boss’ gubernatorial campaign on Milwaukee County’s dime and time. It only resulted in two misdemeanor charges for Darlene Wink, and an other headache for Governor Scott Walker.
Wink pleaded guilty on Tuesday, and faces a maximum of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for each count. Maybe Walker can get his good friends the Koch brothers to pay the fines for her. While Walker was Milwaukee County Executive, Wink was his constituent services coordinator being paid $41,000 a year. She was also the Milwaukee County Republican Party chairman. During working hours she worked on fundraising events for Walker’s bid to become governor in the 2010 election. Wink told Judge Daniel Konkol during the elocution part of her plea bargain, “What I was doing was putting together fliers that were for a fundraiser.” As part of her plea bargain, the prosecutors have recommended no jail time in exchange for her co-operation in their 20-month old “John Doe” investigation into a variety of issues stemming from Walker’s term as County Executive. Three other former Walker aides and appointees have been charged. The investigation began while Walker was still employed as Milwaukee County Executive, six months before he was elected governor.
Walker is on the ropes. His opponents needed less than half-a-million signatures to force his recall. They turned in a million. He is running national ads begging for donations to fund his recall election campaign, which is being interpreted as an inability to tap into his former sources for campaign funds. He is spending almost as much time out of the state raising funds for this recall election as he has spent in it being governor.
The Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity Foundation, through their 501c3 SuperPac, has purchased $700,000 in ad time for a one-minute spot that praises Walker’s job performance without ever mentioning his name. APF poured money into the senate recall races last summer and was criticized for sending out absentee ballots that mislead voters as to the dates of the elections. We already know, thanks to the efforts of Ian Murphy of The Buffalo (New York) Beast last February, that Walker is not adverse to co-ordinating efforts with the Kochs. For the Kochs, and the Tea Party that they fund so heavily, the Walker recall is extremely important. This election will show if they still have the muscle they flexed in 2010 when they got Walker and so many state representatives and governors, as well as Congressmen, elected.
But an ad touting how Walker’s policies were beneficial to the state because he slashed the power of the public sector unions without massive layoffs will be a hard sell against a jobs report that says Wisconsin has lost jobs every month since Walker’s budget went into effect six months ago. It also will not fly well against the cut backs that have had to be made at the local levels, with a law banning counties and municipalities from raising taxes, because the budget cut $1 billion in local funding while giving $1 billion in tax cuts to the very rich.
Walker justified his anti-union policies with his experiences as Milwaukee County Executive. The more dirt this “John Doe” investigation digs up, the less his justifications for union busting sound valid.
Next up will probably be Kelly Rindfleisch, who was Walker’s deputy chief of staff in Milwaukee County. She is facing four felony misconduct charges for doing campaign fundraising while at her county job. Walker denies any knowledge that his staff was doing this illegal activity right under his nose and says that he had a strict policy forbidding it. He has offered to meet with the prosecutors to tell them his side of the story.
If Walker’s defenders were right in their allegation that this is just a political witch hunt, the investigation would not have begun in May, 2010, and have proceeded with snail speed.
Dates for the recall election for Walker and his lieutenant governor Rebecca Kleefisch have not been set. There are two announced Democratic opponents, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and State Senator Kathleen Vinehout. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who lost the 2010 election to Walker 52% to 46%, is still mulling a rematch. With Falk and Vinehout in the race, it will be necessary to hold a Democratic primary before the recall election, but if the senatorial recalls were any indication, there would only be weeks between the two elections. Vinehout is not favored by the state’s Democratic establishment because her tenure in the senate has been marked by several high-profile cross-over votes, most notably voting with the Republicans on against a bill requiring pharmacists to fill birth control prescriptions and for one to legalize carrying concealed weapons. Falk has lost two statewide campaigns in the past.
Barrett would probably be the strongest candidate to face Walker. Walker only received 124,628 votes more than Barrett, a lead that would have been cut to 24,441 if not for the three alternate party candidates and write-ins who received 100,187 votes. It’s just a question now of convincing Barrett that he wants to take on the task of undoing the damage Walker has done.
Mother Jones has posted a timeline and full information about the investigation for those who are interested. You can find it at